Tag Archives: France

Four FAVORITE BOOK SETTINGS on Friday

maps

Four FAVORITE BOOK SETTINGS on Friday
I have to admit that I am Buzz Feed Quiz junkie.  You know, the ones that have you answer questions to determine which Disney Princess you are, which Hogwarts House you belong in, and which decade should you have lived in.  In order, Belle (no surprise there), Gryffindor (I wish I was that brave), and the 1950’s (pencil skirts and cocktail hour all the way!).  I recently saw one that “determined” your book interests based on travel preferences, and it got me thinking about settings.  I went through my list of all my favorite mystery writers . . . of course I have a list . . . and not too surprisingly, there was a lot of overlap of locations.  An honorable mention list must include New Orleans, Washington DC, and New York, but here are the four that made the final cut.

The United Kingdom
Big surprise there!  Obviously London – past and present – is number one of my list.  I have been an Anglophile forever, and although I have only had the opportunity to travel to the UK once, I love the juxtaposition between old and new, ancient and modern.  The history combined with all the cultural influences makes the setting full of literary opportunities.  With such a rich history, mysteries can be set in so many different time periods.  I love to read about the social customs and class mores that are indicative to each era.  Some of my favorite authors include maps of historical London and it is fascinating to see what has changed and what has stayed the same.

I love to read about modern London in Deborah Crombie’s Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James New Scotland Yard adventures, Regency London through the eyes of C. S. Harris’ Sebastian St. Cyr, and Victorian London’s Charles Lenox series by Charles Finch.

Of course, the great thing about the UK is that you can include Scotland, Wales, and Ireland.  My favorite mystery writer, Anna Lee Huber, sets her Georgian Lady Darby series in Scotland.  A modern day Wales is seen in Elizabeth Dunnett’s Penny Brannigan series and Rhys Bowen’s Evan Evans mysteries.

San Francisco
You have probably also noticed my love of San Francisco.  Ah, if money were no object . . . actually, it is an object, just one I don’t have a lot of!  Once again, it is a city with a lot of history and diversity.  With influences from the West and its role in the American Gold Rush and westward expansion history, there is a wealth of potential for conflict and personality.  The cultural and ethnic enclaves within the city are so vibrant that they are also individual and unique settings within the larger city.

I love Juliet Blackwell’s witchcraft series that is set in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco; the author does a great job at describing the tone and feel of this vibrant neighborhood.  Kate Carlisle is another favorite author of mine; her stories are set all around the heart of the city but she also travels up 101 across the Golden Gate Bridge to the wine country as well.  I just discovered Nancy Herriman’s novel of Old San Francisco set post Gold Rush and I look forward to more in that series.

New England
The crisp fall air.  The smell of apple pie.  The sound the pounding surf.  The sight of a dead body.  Don’t you love New England!!  Having lived in the Northeast, I quickly fell in love with the region and it truly does provide a wonderful backdrop to a great crime!  Seriously though, the history, the topography, and customs of decades old generations makes New England a great setting.

Quintessential New England towns provide the perfect setting for Julia Spencer-Fleming’s Russ VanAlstyne and Clare Fergusson contemporary mysteries that feature a small town cop and an Episcopalian priest, and for Jenn McKinlay’s Library Lovers mysteries set in coastal Connecticut.  Kaitlyn Dunnett channels a Scottish heritage in the fictitious Moosetookalook, Maine.

France
Ironically, France had never been a place I had a huge desire to visit, until I was introduced to two great mystery series sent in this beautiful and culturally rich country.  Wine, cheese, the French Alps, the French Riviera.  Seriously, what was I thinking?  Of course I would love to go there!!

Two writers that I really enjoy include Mark Pryor and M.L. Longworth.  Mark Pryor’s Hugo Marston series is set mainly in Paris and I enjoy reading about both the famous and infamous stops that he visits within the city.  M.L. Longworth’s Verlaque and Bonnet series takes place in Aix-en-Provence, which is in southern France not too far from Marseille.  I really enjoy the contrast between the two geographically and culturally diverse areas.

Interesting . . . I have lived in two of these locations; perhaps it is time to move again?  As I wrote this, it got me thinking about specific places from novels that I have read that I would like to visit.  I think I see another blog post topic!  How about you?  What are your favorite book settings?

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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.