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DEATH IN BRITTANY
by Jean-Luc Bannalec and Sorcha McDonagh, trans.
Minotaur Books, June 2015
318 pages
$24.99
ISBN: 1250061741


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

There's something to be said about writing that is so wonderfully descriptive that it can transport its readers to a place they may never have visited before. Such is the case with DEATH IN BRITTANY,

the first in a series featuring caffeine-driven, food-loving Commissaire Georges Dupin, a Parisian transplant who's been living and working cases in Brittany for three years where he will forever be considered an outsider.

Dupin has unusual investigative methods, but in the end, they get their criminal(s). The story unfolds when a 91-year-old hotelier is found dead in his family establishment, the victim of murder. Just who

would want to kill this beloved man and pillar of the community? No one can imagine a perpetrator or discern any notable change in the pattern of the hotelier's most recent behavior.

However, not surprisingly, not everyone in the closed community of Pont-Aven is willing to spill the secrets of the hotel nor its family dynasty. Yet there's an urgency to solve the crime, as tourist season

is about to get under way in this seaside community, where Parisians flock for vacation, following in the footsteps of the 19th century artists of the Pont-Aven School of Art, a group that featured such luminaries as Gauguin.

Among the possible suspects are the man's son and daughter-in-law, the local museum head and a Parisian museum curator, the man's estranged half-brother (an up and coming politician), and various other hotel staff members, friends, and contacts. In other words, everyone and no one. When a thief breaks into the crime scene at the hotel after the hotelier has been murdered, it's clear that there's more to the story than meets the eye.

Jean-Luc Bannalec (the pseudonym for a German writer) keeps readers guessing about the perpetrator, especially when a second body is found just days after the initial murder. The ever-changing list of suspects may alter as readers make their way through this novel and rush to the end. However, some of the most enjoyable aspects of the mystery are descriptions of local sites, history, and atmosphere, and the book is best enjoyed if readers can pace themselves as they learn to stop and smell the sea air along the way.

Originally published in German, this novel first appeared in English in the UK as DEATH IN PONT-AVEN.

Christine Zibas is a freelance writer and former director of publications for a Chicago nonprofit.

Reviewed by Christine Zibas, June 2015

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