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Death in Brittany    by Jean-Luc Bannalec order for
Death in Brittany
by Jean-Luc Bannalec
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2016 (2015)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I read and thoroughly enjoyed Jean-Luc Bannalec's Death in Brittany, while traveling in southern France - and it made me want to head north. It's a charmingly old-fashioned police procedural starring Commissaire Georges Dupin, who was exiled to Brittany from Paris after offending his superiors two years before.

Though no outsider will ever be fully accepted by the locals, the Commissaire is content in these beautiful surroundings and has 'begun his study of the Breton soul.' He's enjoying a café breakfast when he's called about a murder. Pierre-Louis Pennec, the elderly owner of the Central Hotel in Pont-Aven has been found bludgeoned to death. The picturesque village is known worldwide for its artists' colony, Paul Gauguin being the most prominent member.

As the Commissaire (very much a solo act) interviews family members, hotel staff and guests, and friends of the deceased, readers are treated to lyrical descriptions of his surroundings. He learns that the old man had a serious heart condition and was close to death - why was it so urgent to shorten his life even further? A break-in at the hotel follows and another murder increases the pressure to find the culprit.

Gradually, Dupin learns that a priceless work of art (its existence unknown to the world at large) might be central to the case. He consults attractive art expert Marie Morgane Cassel on several occasions and a relationship grows between them. Of course he solves the case in good time.

But, though I did appreciate the mystery, I enjoyed the context of Death in Brittany even more, sharing with the Commissaire, what he saw, smelled, ate and drank. It's an engaging series, which will make any reader keen to book a flight and visit the region in person.

2nd Review by Mary Ann Smyth:

Just from the exquisite cover, I knew Death in Brittany would be a good read. The beautiful river winding its way through a small village in the western part of France drew me into the story in no time.

Commissaire Georges Dupin is called to the scene of a curious murder. The owner of the Central Hotel in Pont-Aven is found killed in his own establishment. Pierre-Louis Pennec was ninety-one years old and the hotel had been passed down through generations of the same family. The old man's will is of interest to the potential heirs. And so becomes important to Dupin.

Dupin starts his investigation in his very own manner – this requires him to find solitude where he can put all his thoughts into the problem at hand. He prefers to stand near the river running through the small village and also to enjoy the breezes at the beach where the ocean meets land.

The strong plot of this mystery draws the reader further and further into the story while being regaled with descriptions of the most beautiful scenery you're likely to see anywhere. Trees, shrubs, brightly colored flowers, and the almost overpowering sound of moving water sending the fragrance of the ocean into the clear air. This one is a real treat.

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