Verlaque and Bonnet, Book 2
Author: M.L. Longworth
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: September 25, 2012
Source: Publisher for review
Description from Goodreads:
Set in a small university in the idyllic town of Aix-en-Provence in the South of France, the charming series continues with a dumbfounding murder that nearly stumps the handsome chief magistrate of Aix, Antoine Verlaque.
First Sentence: "The friendship between Yann Falquerho and Thierry Marchive had surprised everyone at the university."
1: Death at the Chateau Bremont (Goodreads)
Despite mysteries not being my favorite genre, I read this one right on the heels of the prequel to Luther. The two could not be any more different, but both turned out to be entirely delightful vacation reads, this one especially so. In a rare occurrence, I read this book without first reading the first book in the series. While I would have preferred to read them in order, I will say that my enjoyment of the book was in no way hampered by my lack of knowledge of the first book.
I accepted the review request for this becase of the setting. I have been lucky enough in my quarter century of life to do some traveling abroad, and one of the places I have been to is Aix in Provence. Of course, I only spent a couple of days there and I certainly don't have enough memories of the place to be able to recall anything specific enough to aid in my knowledge of the book, but I still liked being able to immerse myself in smaller town French culture.
In that respect, I got absolutely everything I hoped for from Murder in the Rue Dumas. The book is so French. There is much discussion of food, wine, alcohol, and such things. Warning: this book will make you hungry. There's a certain snobbishness to it, but I found it fabulous.
Longworth's mystery hearkens back to Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, following more of a classic tradition in both plot arc and hero. Modern detectives seem always to come hard-boiled and violent, getting involved in a very hands-on manner in cases. Antoine Verlaque cares about solving the case of course, but he does not entirely relinquish the finer things in life to do so, nor does he have any intention of being involved in some final, dramatic confrontation with the killer. He is clever and closed off and a little bit sassy.
Bonnet, actually, is not a detective at all. She's Verlaque's girlfriend, who, I presume, he hooked up with in the first book. Their relationship is in that awkward phase where neither is quite sure how serious it is. Bonnet does help some with the case, but is, largely, on the periphery. I do like her, and I like that she isn't his partner, as that changes up typical dynamics a bit. I was not super attached to the characters, but I was entertained by them, which was enough for me.
Murder in the Rue Dumas also happens to be a very academic mystery. The murder victim works in the theology department of the same university where Bonnet teaches law. Most of the large cast of characters work in academia, so there's quite a bit of theological or otherwise very intelligent discussion. In this way, the book reminded me quite a bit of David Lodge's books, which are sort of academic humor and are in fact referenced in this novel.
This mystery will be a breath of fresh burgundy for those who miss the old days and the classic detectives. Everything happens at a slower pace and involves much less vigilante justice and a lot more thinking. I would recommend drinking a nice bottle of French wine as you read.
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"'Have you ever read the Persian Letters?' he asked.
'No, I never have. Molière? Marivaux?'
'Close. Montesquieu. There are these Turks, Usbek and Rica, who go on a grand tour of Western Europe, hilariously misinterpreting the people and customs they see along the way.'
'Are you referring to Roussel?' Paulik asked. 'Or Yann and Thierry?'