This whodunit revisits Judge Antoine Verlaque and law professor turned amateur sleuth Marine Bonnet, and their lives in Aix-en-Provence. The two were introduced in Death At Chateau Bremont, a mystery about identity and inheritance. This time they join forces to find the murderer of fellow professor Dr Georges Moutte.
Scholarly, perhaps, but hated by most faculty and students, he held a prestigious post and enjoyed tormenting those who hoped to be his predecessor — and those who hoped to be awarded the Dumas fellowship. Two such promising students discover Prof. Moutte’s body on the floor of his office when they break in, looking for clues as to who will win the fellowship. The investigation reveals a coveted apartment, Galle glass, trips to Italy, and faculty jealousy — all wrapped up in the complicated relationship of Verlaque and Bonnet.
I actually liked this book a good deal better than the first. The plot was much more intriguing, without being convoluted. Longworth deftly skips between character narratives and never leaves any trail untouched for too long. The characters were better drawn — gently flawed, fully-rendered and believable. Rather than feeling dragged along, as in some mystery novels, I felt invited to partake, in a way. The reader is expected to make judgments and have favorites.
And, as before, Aix itself is a character:
Marine stopped between the third and fourth floors, as she usually did, to catch her breath. She was thankful that most buildings in old Aix stopped at the fourth floor and not the sixth like Paris. She had picked up a small roast beef at Antoine’s favorite butcher, a place so small that she usually passed it before having to double back down the narrow rue duMaréchal Foch. The butcher did not flirt with her as other commerçants did — he took his job seriously; he was polite, but did not chat or tell jokes. It was obvious that meat came first, and a poster on the wall confirmed that. It depicted a stone barn with a steep slate rood and flower boxes, below that the name of the farmer and his address and phone number in the Salers region of the Auvergne, inviting the patron to visit and see his herd of strong red cows. ~Pg 130.
Though it may seem that such a tangent is unnecessary to the plot, it is actually these details that make the story plausible.
Murder in the Rue Dumas is an enjoyable little cozy. It is recommended for fans of Dorothy Sayers or Miss Marple. Enjoy with a pot of tea — or some French wine and cheese.
Many thanks to the kind folks at Penguin for the review copy.
ISBN 9780143121541 | 304 pages | 25 Sep 2012 | Penguin | 8.26 x 5.23in | 18 – AND UP