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by Betsy DraineMichael Hinden

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-299-28420-6
Publisher: Terrace Books/Univ. of Wisconsin Press

An art historian’s research trip to southwest France is enlivened by her encounter with a corpse.

The Dordogne valley, known to natives as Périgord, is famous for its walnuts and duck. Nora Barnes and her antiques-dealer husband Toby Sandler are exploring the quirky regional cuisine through a cooking course at the Château de Cazelle offered by Marianne, daughter of the current baron. Nora also has the family’s permission to look at journals and letters left by Marianne’s great-great-aunt Jenny Marie, an artist who painted alongside Manet and Morisot. And Toby has wangled the pair the rare opportunity to view the cave paintings at nearby Lascaux, which admits only five visitors per day. Unfortunately, they choose a day during which one of the five—a government official named Michel Malbert—ends up strangled, garnering them unwelcome attention from Inspector Daglan. To wriggle out from under the local detective’s baleful squint, Nora seeks to find the killer by bombarding Marianne and her brother Guillaume with questions about topics they’ve been reluctant to discuss, including the cause of Jenny Marie’s death and the rumor of Nazi loot hidden on their property. She also noses around sites they’ve expressly forbidden her to explore, including an old chapel used by members of the Cathars before they were purged by Rome. Will she learn to make an acceptable magret de canard before she gets booted out of the chateau, or before anyone else gets killed?

Emeriti Professors Draine and Hinden’s mystery debut offers a good dose of Périgord culture, but Nora’s antics make you want to send an apology to her hosts.