Tuesday, 10 November 2020

A Noel Killing

Finished November 1
A Noël Killing by M.L Longworth


This mystery is the 8th book in the series featuring Verlaque and Bonnett, but the first one I've read. The story is set in the town of Aix-en-Provence in France in December. Antoine Verlaque is the examining magistrate for the town and his wife Marine Bonnet who was a law professor, but is now doing research and writing. Antoine doesn't like Christmas, as it brings back unhappy memories for him. His parents did not have a happy marriage, his mother has passed away, his father remarried, and he isn't close to either his father or his brother. 
Marine's parents live in Aix. Her father is a doctor and her mother Florence seems to have her hand in everything that happens. Marine wants to make this a special Christmas. 
There is a tradition with the local Anglo Protestant Church of having a special service with Christmas carols in the days before Christmas, followed by a buffet meal, with the food supplied by vendors who have booths in the local Christmas Fair market, but are from sister cities of Aix in other countries. This year, there are booths from Philadelphia, United States; Carthage, Tunisia; Perugia, Italy; Bath, England and Tübingen, Germany. France Dubois is the secretary for the church and the main organizer of the event. She lives in an apartment near the town centre by herself and her story is only gradually revealed.
Debra Hainsby and her husband Cole have been living in the area a few years. Debra is working as a secretary at the private English language school nearby. Her boss and the owner of the school Alain Sorba is a self-made man who has lots of things on the go, but he isn't well liked. The school attracts international students as well as some locals wanting to have their children gain another language. Cole has partnered with a local man, Damien Petit, to run a tour company, but he seems to be always looking for new ideas, unable to focus and plan, and the company has been facing financial issues lately. 
There are many side stories in this book, that I'm guessing will be developed further in other books in this series, and we meet many of the shopkeepers and residents of this town as the story develops. 
There are definitely some I liked and would like to see more of. France Dubois, who is intelligent and resilient and kind is one of them. Four young female friends who get together on occasion socially are other. The consist of Fanny Jacquet, owner of a popular bistro in town; Rachida Hammoudi who works in a pharmacy; Jennifer Flanagan whose husband Dave is the pastor at the Anglo Protestant church and who bakes cakes for Fanny's bistro; and Brigitte Plantier who is teaching at the private school and whose husband is Quebecois. 
As is common in European mysteries the food and drink are all enticing, and many scenes take place at dinners and in restaurants, whetting my appetite for the dishes described. 
When a man dies at the carol service dinner, Antoine gets involved. He is joined by his friend, Bruno Paulik, the commissioner of police, when the death looks like is wasn't accidental. 
As people's secrets get exposed, there are many lines of potential inquiry, and some moments of suspense and danger. 
I really enjoyed this book and will look for more in the series. 

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