Monday, March 5, 2018

A Village Mystery with French Atmosphere

Q: A little BSP. Write your own review of YOUR last book.

- from Susan

Funny. This had me sitting with fingers frozen above the keyboard. Ask me to write a review about YOUR last book, and I’m off and running. Ask me to review a stranger’s mystery (which I used to do for a newspaper) and I can do it. But my own book? After all, I wouldn’t have written it, shared it with my agent, let her submit it to a publisher if I didn’t think it was good. But…I could quote other reviewers who liked it, but that’s a cheat. Okay, here goes.

    * * * *

LOVE & DEATH IN BURGUNDY, St. Martin’s Minotaur, 2017

After three years of living in the small town of Reigny-sur-Canne, all Katherine Goff really wants is to be accepted by her neighbors into their little community. When the elderly Frenchman who lives in the chateau is found dead at the bottom of a staircase, Katherine finds herself drawn deeper and deeper into the small town’s secrets. A motherless teenager, a malicious French widow, a brash music producer, and a would-be Agatha Christie are among those caught up in a storm that threatens to turn Katherine’s quiet life upside down.

Small town mysteries are reader favorites. Ordinary people, frequently charming, of course, seen at close enough range to relish their eccentricities. The landscapes can be scenic or cozy, but they draw readers into worlds like – but not quite like – our own, with the spice of scandal, gossip, and the occasional romance or delectable food as a bonus. Susan Shea has created a fictional crossroads town far off the tourist map in Burgundy that’s upended when scandal strikes.  She turns a wickedly funny eye on the snobberies that animate her characters’ lives, and the tone deaf Americans who descend on Reigny-sur-Canne in hopes of recreating their American lives with the addition of French food and atmosphere. Her protagonist is a different kind of American, someone who wants nothing so much as to blend in, but who can’t seem to please the town’s social arbiter.

The town’s gamine teenager, daughter of the local thief, provides a second perspective on the life of Reigny, often from her perch in a tree, from which she tosses fruit at passing cars and spies on everyone. Her crush on a spoiled American boy in town for the summer worries Katherine as it does us.

Adding their own artistic flavors to the story are Michael, Katherine’s would-be rock and roll musician husband, nursing a grudge against his former band; and a clumsy young Englishwoman who believes she could become the next Agatha Christie if only there were murders in the neighborhood from which to draw inspiration.

The mystery is solved, and it’s twistier than formulas would predict. Just as important is Katherine’s decision to stand up for someone the local society doesn’t approve of, even if it costs her her dream of becoming part of Reigny’s community. In the meantime, there is traditional Burgundian food to be cooked and eaten, and that’s no small thing, given that the region is known for its iconic dishes and brilliant wines. Altogether, “a pleasant getaway from hardcore killers,” as the New York Times Book Review noted.

(Sorry, Minds, I just had to add that last!)

DRESSED FOR DEATH IN BURGUNDY, the sequel, comes out May 1, 2018, and my little village is animated again by death, and the pending celebration of Christmas.

"Not since my first visit to Louise Penny's Three Pines have I encountered a more beguiling fictional world..." - Catriona McPherson

"Delightful and highly entertaining" - Sheila Connolly


Paul D. Marks said...

Susan, don't you wish we could write all the reviews of our books? :-)

Unknown said...

Am always on the lookout for pleasant getaways. This is already on my list, but now more so. Enticing cast of characters and cuisine!

Susan C Shea said...

No, Paul, it's a little squirmy, to tell you the truth!

Hope you like it, RM! Thanks for putting it on your TBR list.

James W. Ziskin said...

Great job, Susan!!!

RJ Harlick said...

All I can say is that I'm glad this is your week not mine. You guys are very brave. There is no way I could write a review about my own book. But I love France. Your book sounds delicious, Susan. I too will put it on my TBR list.

Cathy Ace said...

I'm putting off writing mine until the very last minute - this is giving me headaches! Great job Susan (wanna write mine???)