Every summer reading list needs a cozy mystery. This one is nestled in the community of Aix-en-Provence. Magistrate Verlaque oversees Commissioner Paulik’s investigation of a possible wine theft. A local vineyard is stunned to discover a number of irreplaceable bottles from its cellar.
Soon local law enforcement will wish the only crime they had to investigate was so innocuous. Mme D’Arras has gone missing and her husband is beside himself with worry. Unfortunately she will not return home from her wanderings like she has so many times before. Pauline D’Arras is found dead in a vineyard. Was it an accident? Did she snoop too much at her neighbors house? The mystery deepens, and Verlaque calls upon his very capable staff at the Palais de Justice to solve it.
Verlaque’s capable girlfriend, Marine Bonnet adds her observations to the mix. Her amateur detective skills come in handy on more than one occasion and everyday tasks become clues. Author Longworth gives her academic characters in the story local flavor:
Marine Bonnet shirted from foot to foot, angry that she was having to line up at the post office on the sole day when she didn’t have to teach. She had prepared the large manila envelope ahead of time, but the two automated machines that weighed and stamped parcels were out of order. she was pleased with her essay on the relationship, and admiration, that Honore Mirabeau — Aix-en-Provence’s famed politician and man of letters — had shared with Thomas Jefferson. She even thought that the paper could become a chapter in what she thought should be a new, sorely needed more modern biography of of Mirabeau. Pg. 65
The characters, regardless of their daily imperatives, manage to enjoy good wine, puff contraband cigars, and pick up fresh dinner ingredients at the market. Settings include well worn side streets, historic homes, and established wineries. It wouldn’t be a Bonnet & Verlaque mystery without it. And it’s clear that Longworth holds a special affinity for the lifestyle as well.
L’Agence de la Ville was Aix’s biggest and most luxurious real-estate agency, in a town that could almost boast more Realtors than doctors. It had a prime location on the Cours Mirabeau — on the north side of the café side, not the south bank side — so that one could stroll after a coffee and gaze at the framed, backlit color advertisements of bastides, stone mas, hôtels particuliers, lavish apartments, and even the converted barn or two. The houses were located in the most desirable areas of Provence: Aix and its environs, the southern Lubéron, and the Marseille coast. most of the properties had prices in the seven digits; for others, no price was given only the words “Inquire with us….” Pg. 188
Even amid the murders and mayhem, sun-soaked Southern France is held in high esteem. This book is a concise, compact and quick read — the perfect formula for a summer cozy.
Many thanks to Laura at Penguin for the review copy.
28 May 2013
8.26 x 5.23in
18 – AND UP