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Sunday, April 5, 2015

Death at the Château Bremont by M. L. Longworth

Penguin Books, 311 pages, $15 (c2011)

Our MBTB book group will be talking about “Death at the Château Bremont” at our May meeting. We almost always split in our opinions on the books we read, and welcome all sides to our lively discussion! The May 2015 meeting is scheduled for the fourth Tuesday of the month at the Belmont Branch of the Multnomah County Library. If you are in the Portland area, please drop by and join us!

I have never been to Aix-en-Provence in France, but I would like to, especially after reading M. L. Longworth’s loving depiction of the area. Although Longworth was born in Canada and lived in the U.S. for some of her adult years, pretty early on she and her husband and daughter moved to an area close to Aix. She has been there for over fifteen years. She is perfectly situated to know what we unfortunate souls who do not live in Aix need to hear about this beautiful, delicious area.

Longworth’s main protagonist is a “juge,” less a judge than a detective in this case. Antoine Verlaque has the ability and responsibility to investigate suspicious deaths, often working companionably with Commissioner Bruno Paulik of the police. Verlaque is an aesthete, so it’s a good thing he lives where he does. Can the wine be more delicious, the food tastier, the scenery more grand, and the clothing more à la mode than in Aix? Of course the flip side is he is sometimes pompous, snobbish, and dictatorial, without quite meaning to be.

Perhaps the love of Verlaque’s life is Professor Martine Bonnet, a teacher of law at the local university. They have parted ways, but each longs for certain qualities in the other. When one of Bonnet’s childhood friends dies in a suspicious manner, Verlaque is happy to enfold her within the investigation.

Longworth touches on the ins and outs of Aix society, French culture, and other aspects of la belle vie as a sensual background to a touching mystery.

“Death at the Château Bremont” is the first of four Verlaque books so far by Longworth.

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