by Jean-Luc Bannalec
Series: Brittany Mystery #1
Publication Date: May 31, 2016
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Commissaire Georges Dupin, a cantankerous, Parisian-born caffeine junkie recently relocated from the glamour of Paris to the remote (if picturesque) Breton coast, is dragged from his morning croissant and coffee to the scene of a curious murder. The local village of Pont-Aven—a sleepy community by the sea where everyone knows one other and nothing much seems to happen—is in shock. The legendary ninety-one-year-old hotelier Pierre-Louis Pennec, owner of the Central Hotel, has been found dead.
A picture-perfect seaside village that played host to Gaugin in the nineteenth century, Pont-Aven is at the height of its tourist season and is immediately thrown into uproar. As Dupin delves into the lives of the victim and the suspects, he uncovers a web of secrecy and silence that belies the village's quaint image.
I’m pretty sure I have one of the books in this series floating around a TBR pile somewhere, but I couldn’t remember which one, and I was pretty sure it wasn’t the first one, so I checked it out from the library. If I do have one of the series (and I didn’t give it away) it’s one that I’ve picked up and put right back down again for ages, but the titles always appeal to me, so I made myself read this one.
It was pretty good! Not great, but entertaining, and a pretty solid mystery. The writing style (3rd person) reminds me a little of the Provence mystery series written by M.L. Longworth, although I suspect that’s more just the power of suggestion (one series set in Provence, the other in Brittany) than any actual resemblance. But I’d class these as traditional mysteries, not cozy; they’re all about the mystery plots and very little about the characters, although the descriptions of the countryside were a little eye glazing.
The main character of the book is an obvious tip of the hat to Poe, as his name is Dupin. To my everlasting relief, however, he is as unlike his classic namesake as can be. There’s no expounding, or soapbox monologues; the mystery plot spans 4 days and every one of them is non-stop showing and almost no telling. A Gaugin masterpiece is at the centre of the murder plot, and mysteries about art are catnip for me, so when it felt slow going, the art kept me reading. I say slow going, but that’s not really accurate; the book isn’t divided into chapters, but the 4 days of the investigation, and if you’re a stop-at-the-end-of-a-chapter reader like I am, discovering the first ‘chapter’ is 97 pages long makes it feel like it’s taking forever. Once I figured that out, I adjusted my habits and the book and I got along much better.
I’m definitely interested in the rest of the series. I need to figure out if I do, indeed, have a book and which one it is, and whether or not my library has the entire series or is going to torture me with random entries. No matter though, I definitely have a new series to look forward to.