I didn’t hate this novel, exactly. Black is quite good at creating a complicated plot with plenty of suspects and, as in this case, a number of possible different motives for the same crime. The main characters are mostly pretty interesting, and Aimee Leduc’s bad habit of being unprepared at the crucial moment is, for some reason, less annoying than is the case with other fictional female detectives whom I need not name.
She’s also not bad at creating suspense as the final showdown approaches, mostly because you start wondering in what exact way she’ll put herself into unnecessary danger when she finally confronts the culprit.
She seems to be quite familiar with Paris, and I appreciate that she provides a kind of armchair tour of multiple Paris neighborhoods in each of her novels.
But despite its many virtues, this series suffers from the fact that Black isn’t very good at faking her way through things that she doesn’t know much about. Her depiction of software and hacking is almost always just silly. And in this novel she hopes to fake her way through the intricacies of pre-revolution bolshevism as represented by a supposed “hatred” between Trotsky and Lenin, and an imagined love affair between Lenin and a prostitute. I’m certainly no expert on the relationship between Trotsky and Lenin, but I know that despite fundamental theoretical differences and occasional fallings out, they maintained a healthy working relationship right up to the time of Lenin’s death. I don’t really mind that Black chose to distort this history: I simply wish that she had done a better job of research and had made up a story that would hang together better.
In fairness, though, it’s interesting to imagine that Modigliani might have painted a portrait of Lenin in 1910; though it would be far more likely that he would have done no more than a pencil drawing. In any event, kudos to Black for having come up with that idea.