An international bestseller, first published in German in March 2012, Death in Brittany * * by Jean-Luc Bannalec (a pseudonym) introduces the first case of Commissaire Georges Dupin.
At the height of the tourist season, Commissaire Georges Dupin, the cantankerous Parisian transplant to the coastal town of Concarneau, is dragged from his morning croissant and coffee to the village of Pont-Aven, where the 91-year-old hotelier Pierre-Louis Pennec has been found murdered in his restaurant.
Dupin and his team identify five principal suspects, amony them a rising political star, a longtime friend of the victim, and a well-respected art historian. The case is further complicated when a second death occurs and a painting (perhaps a genuine second version of Gauguin's famous Vision After the Sermon) disappears from Pennec's hotel. As Dupin delves further into the lives of the victims and the suspects, he uncovers a web of secrecy and silence in this picture-perfect seaside village that once played host to Paul Gauguin and other post-Impressionist painters in the 19th century, members of the loosely connected Pont-Aven School.
"Dupin is fascinating to watch - he's both cranky and enthusiastic... The star of the mystery, though, is Brittany. Bannalec feeds the reader with intriguing bits of history (for example, Bretons are descended from the Celts, who fled Britain during the Anglo-Saxon invasions) and culture, along with bracing glimpses of centuries-old stone buildings, river banks, and the sea."
For mystery fans who enjoyed the Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg series by Fred Vargas; the Chief Magistrate Antoine Verlaque series by M.L. Longworth, set in charming and historic Aix-en-Provence; and Martin Walker's delightful Bruno Courreges series set in the fictional town of St Denis, in the picturesque Perigord region of rural France - featuring the consummate cook and locavore who happens to be the Chief of Police.
* * = 2 starred review