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by Serena Kent
Harper Paperbacks, March 2020
362 pages
ISBN: 0062869884

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Retiring to a farmhouse in Provence, hobnobbing with artists and art dealers, and indulging in both fabulous pastries and a bit of romance may sound idyllic. Penelope Kite certainly thinks it's going to be an improvement on her dreary, divorced English life. But in DEATH IN AVIGNON, the second book in the Penelope Kite series, Penelope once again finds herself embroiled in a murder mystery that the police seem unable to solve. Since the victim fell dead practically at Penelope's feet while she was attending an art show, she finds herself very involved right from the start. Add to that, her love interest, the mayor, is friends with the suspects, and the stakes get even higher. Before it's all over, Penelope's life itself is on the line, the glamorous art world shows an ugly underbelly, people Penelope thinks she knows turn out to be nothing like she expected, and her idyllic existence is decidedly less idyllic than she had hoped and imagined it would be.

While that all may sound fairly intense, DEATH IN AVIGNON cushions the violence with plenty of delightful details about life in Provence, perfectly evoking the setting. Penelope herself is equally delightful, balancing an intelligent curiosity and strong sense of self with just a bit of middle-age unease as she compares herself to fashionable friends, finds herself drawn into romances, and tries to resist pastries as well as solve a mystery.

While the setting and Penelope contribute much to the appeal of the novel, DEATH IN AVIGNON's plot is also intriguing, with lots of twists, turns, and puzzles all along the way to keep the reader guessing. The book is nicely paced, too, with high action and everyday events keeping pages turning, while just a touch of romance and interesting minor characters add further interest. All in all, the combination creates a whole world where you'll want to spend some time. Getting to the solution of an art-fueled mystery is the icing on the cake.

Meredith Frazier, a writer with a background in English literature, lives in Dallas, Texas

Reviewed by Meredith Frazier, January 2020

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