Author Cara Black visits Books Inc. in Mtn. View

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More than two dozen people listened intently as local author Cara Black read from and discussed her latest book at Books Inc. in Mountain View March 21.

Black is author of a dozen mysteries that feature a young female detective named Aimée Léduc, who lives and works in Paris. Black’s latest offering, “Murder at the Lanterne Rouge” (Soho Crime, 2012), showcases Léduc and her trusty sidekick, René, as they cavort in one of Paris’ Chinatowns.

During her talk, Black noted that many different places and events in Paris have provided inspiration for her books, or, quoting Stephen King, “kindling for a story.”

The author’s most poignant anecdote drew from a trip to Paris in 1984, when a friend pointed to a second-floor window and said she knew of a young girl who lived in that apartment in 1942. The girl arrived home from school one day and discovered that her entire family had disappeared, and she never saw them again. The girl lived on her own for the next two years during the German occupation of France, with little food or money, and finally heard from an acquaintance that her family had been forced to board a train for Auschwitz on that fateful day. Black used the story as an important element in one of her books.

Clearly, Paris is an important place for Black, who visits the city at least once a year and sets her mysteries in different sections of town. Several audience members thanked Black for introducing them to offbeat parts of the city and little-known facts about Parisian neighborhoods.

Black noted that her love of all things French began at home, where her parents displayed many treasured possessions from France, continued when she attended Sacred Heart, a French Catholic school in San Carlos, and deepened when she lived in Paris in the 1970s and 1980s. Black also attended Cañada College in Redwood City and San Francisco State University.

Black described her writing as “using the detective story as a means of telling a broader story.” She said she uses her books to penetrate a little deeper each time into the background of Léduc, who grew up without a mother and seems always to be searching for clues about her background.

She is currently writing another mystery that will provide more tantalizing clues about Léduc’s mother and more complications for the private investigator’s love life.

Books Inc., with locations in Mountain View and Palo Alto, regularly hosts authors.

John Van Der Zee, author of “San Francisco Childhood: Memories of a Great City Seen through the Eyes of Its Children” (Grizzly Peak Press, 2011), is scheduled to appear 7 p.m. April 12 at the Books Inc. at Town & Country Village in Palo Alto.

Author Imran Ahmad is scheduled to discuss his book “The Perfect Gentleman: A Muslim Boy Meets the West” (Center Street, 2012) 7 p.m. May 23 at Books Inc. in Mountain View, 301 Castro St.

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