The Mystery of the Lost Cezanne

Mystery of the Lost Cezanne

Title:  The Mystery of the Lost Cezanne (Verlaque and Bonnet 5)
Author:  M. L. Longworth
Publisher:  Penguin
Publication Date:  2015
ISBN:  978-0-14-312807-6

Book Summary:
Judge Antoine Verlaque expands on his professional duties as a judge and magistrate by incorporating a little bit of detecting.  When a friend from his cigar club asks him to meet with his neighbor, Rene Rouquet, Antoine is intrigued.  Rene lives in an apartment once habited by Cezanne and he claims to have discovered a previously unknown painting by the artist.  However, when Antoine and Pierre arrive at Rene’s apartment, the painting is gone and a beautiful Yale art history professor is standing over his body.  Dr. Rebecca Schultz professes her innocence and claims to be in Aix-en-Provence researching a mysterious lover in Cezanne’s past.

Soon the stolen artwork is recovered.  There is just one problem: although the painting looks to be the work of the artist, the colors and subject matter are completely contradictory to all known Cezanne work.  As Antoine questions and queries experts in Cezanne, art history, and art forgery, his girlfriend Marine Bonnet also becomes involved in the mystery.  As a law professor, Marine has some knowledge of legalities of the art world and her father is a Cezanne aficionado.  They begin to dig into the history of Cezanne’s life in Aix and the people he interacted with and who influenced his painting.  Could the painting be a huge coup in the art world or it is a really impressive fake?  What about the painting could prompt murder, and who is so anxious to either expose or hid the work?

Book Commentary:
This is the fifth book in the Verlaque and Bonnet series.  I discovered this delightful mystery series at Book People in Austin.  The mysteries are good, but I absolutely love the character of Antoine Verlaque and his passion for French food, French wine, and good cigars.  Half of the book focus on the mystery and half of the book addresses epicurean delights!  M. L. Longworth creates the rich atmosphere of the French countryside from one who lives there.  The mysteries are entertaining and intriguing and blend in just a bit of romance.

The story includes the humorous wit evident in all the Verlaque and Bonnet stories and secondary characters who are full of personality.  There is enough procedural details to add depth to the mystery solving process while still telling a full-bodied story.  The story is told in both the present and a brief period of time in Cezanne’s past.

Who might like this book:
If you like picturesque France, cheese, baguettes, and a good Bordeaux, you will enjoy this series.  The stories are intriguing and satisfying while still being fairly quick and light reads.  The books will make you wish for a more languorous existence where one truly enjoys the pleasures of life.  Lovers of art, art history, and art fraud will especially enjoy this tale.  Fans of Peter Mayle’s Provence books will enjoy the tribute to France and its culture.

Read them in order (of course!) – Death at the Chateau Bremont, Murder in the Rue Dumas, Death in the Vines, Murder on the Ile Sordou – with a plate of fromage and croissants and a glass of rich Merlot.


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