The greatest charm of this series is its sense of place. The bulk of the action is in Aix en Provence with side trips to the surrounding areas and occasionally to Paris. You won’t get bogged down in detail, but the settings and surroundings (including the food and wine) are so well described that you will feel transported to France. These are familiar areas to us, and it is very recognizable. This is the fifth book in the series featuring Judge Antoine Verlaque and his lover Professor Marine Bonnet. By the fifth book, we have gotten to know the rest of the continuing characters and more about their lives. Because there is a well-developed cast of continuing characters, this is a series that is best read in order. This story is focused on the murder of a grumpy man who lives in the apartment that Paul Cezanne owned in the late 1800’s. It is not a spoiler to say that the investigation quickly centers on his supposed discovery of a lost Cezanne painting. The investigators are looking for the murderer, occasionally looking for the painting, and trying to determine if the painting is genuine. The reader knows that the painting is genuine because there are flashbacks interspersed that tell the story of Cezanne and his mystery Aixoise lover as the painting is done. That is not a story telling technique that I particularly enjoy. I prefer to have the mysteries investigated and unraveled instead of having long dead characters reenact the resolution on the pages. Fortunately, it is not the largest part of the book. The other negative is that part of the plot has Verlaque behaving in such a careless manner that it is inconsistent with both his character and his profession. I did not find it believable and I did not like it. Still, that criticism is also a recommendation for the series, because it demonstrates that the author has created characters that you will feel that you know. This book is unlikely to offend anyone. There are is no graphic violence, no graphic sex, and most of the swearing in French. If you know the words in French, you are unlikely to find the language objectionable. This is not a series that I pre-order (unlike those by authors such as Martin Walker, Elly Griffiths, Mark Pryor, Louise Penny, Paul Doiron, Anne Cleeves, and Jean-Luc Bannalec), but it is a series that I have enjoyed and happily will continue to read.
I have read all five of M.L. Longworth's mystery novels set in Aix-en-Provence and found each one enjoyable. As they progress, we learn more about Juge Antoine Verlaque and Marine Bonnet, lovers friends, and sleuths. In spite of Verlaque's position, these stories exist somewhere between cozy and police procedurals, neither hard boiled nor soft. Each outing imparts information on France, Provence, Aix, and the legal system in France. In this particular outing, we also learn about Paul Cezanne, the artist who lived and worked in Aix.
Longworth presents the reader with multiple mysteries this time. Who killed Rene Rouquet is, of course, the most immediate question. Did he find an authentic and unknown Cezanne painting? If it is authentic, who is the woman depicted, smiling and happy, unlike most of his portrait subjects. And in the background, what is bothering Marine, making her a bit short with Antoine, the man she loves dearly.
Other continuing characters in their lives make an appearance. Sylvie, Marine's Bohemian friend. Her mother and father, devoted to each other. Antoine's father, with his mother in the hospital, is up to his old tricks. And Paulik and Schoelcher, colleagues and friends. Each visit to Aix-en-Provence is exciting and informative. I hope for more in the future.
I love this series, and eagerly await every year for the newest release. M.L. Longworth has created characters that are ALMOST as enchanting and beguiling as the scenery in which she places them. As a Francophile I am slightly biased. if I can't be based in France reading one of these is the next best thing! The only complaint I have is that they are so well written, so smooth, and so absorbing, that I read them so quickly. They are over before I know it! That's not to say that they each aren't the exact perfect length to keep you interested, satisfied, and wanting more! I hope Ms. Longworth continues to write this series for many years to come.
As this mystery involved the simultaneous telling of two stories, the mystery element was somewhat light and predictable, and itssolution perfunctory. But the vividly re-created locations, tantalizing descriptions of meals past and present and atmospheric wandering so through the city passed the time delightfully. A little too much chaps-smoking-cigars minutiae for this reader, though, and more discussion of the law and its intricacies would be welcome to add a bit more intellectual heft to the puzzles.
I liked the story, and loved the setting in Paris. That was why I chose this book - I like stories that take place in France/Paris. It was sometimes confusing about who was speaking, but...was able to figure it out. Therefore, I read another of M.L. Longworth's books.
A light and airy mystery story, and not the best of Longworth's series, in my opinion. The plot jumps around a bit, and the book has more characters than the story requires. I also thought the historical portions are probably somewhat facile and of unknown accuracy. Nonetheless, I enjoy Longworth's lead characters, and this book deepens and develops our understanding of them. I also really enjoy the insights Longworth's books provide into French provincial life and mores and into the somewhat arcane French police and judicial system. I still look forward to the next tale in this series.
I enjoyed the book but I am more interested in books set in England. There was so much French that I wasn't sure what was being said. It was an interesting story and I wound up researching more info on Paul Cezanne. Highly recommend for Francophiles and readers interested in this famous painter.
French murder mysteries are without a doubt my favorite simple pleasure. M. L. Longworth has built some very enjoyable characters, which really is the heart of this genre. As for the plots, sure, there are some massive leaps on the way to the big reveal, buy it's all in the name of good fun. One can't take everything too seriously. 😉