I’d love to give this book, the thirteenth in Cara Black’s series about Parisian private investigator Aimee Leduc, five stars for setting and atmosphere but two stars for plot, character development, etc. It’s always a risk to jump in this late in a series, but the problem wasn’t that I was lost or confused; rather, I was disappointed by stereotypes and a plot that stretched credibility to the breaking point. Aimee meets up with a Russian who wants her to protect a painting (a Modigliani portrait of Lenin) and who apparently knows her estranged mother, but he is murdered and the painting missing. And then we’re off, with stereotypical Russian mobsters, stereotypical Serbian assassins, and stereotypical French art dealers all after this painting.

Aimee is unlikeable, but the real problem with her is ineptitude. How can a professional PI be injured on the job this many times? How can she be caught snooping almost constantly? There’s a subplot about her partner Rene moving to California that has no relevance to the plot, but may hold more interest for long-term series readers. One of the key plot twists was beyond absurd, and I figured out the solution ahead of time.

Still, Paris is nicely realized here, and the Russian history is fascinating. But this is a mystery novel, and as that it doesn’t quite hit the mark.

Source disclosure: I received an e-galley of this title courtesy of the publisher.