Pseudonymous Jay’s debut plops a killer-for-hire down in the placid Dordogne village of Taziac to produce a mashup of cloak-and-dagger and cozy replete with murder and fine dining.
A cleaning lady shows up at L’Ermitage to find vacation renter Ben Reece, a New York art dealer, gruesomely slain. A further search of the villa discloses the equally dead bodies of Reece’s wife and the wife of his old friend Schuyler Phillips. The local flics assume that the killer is the absent Monsieur Phillips. Once they find his corpse too, they redirect their suspicions to handyman Ali Sedak. All of which proves that these cops are idiots, because readers already know that two retired French intelligence agents who still have a stake in the game have dispatched Klaus Reiner, a freelance assassin of many names, to Taziac on a murderous mission. Even after the hapless cops ask that Inspector Paul Mazarelle, a local celebrity, be assigned to the case, things are slow to improve for the forces of law and order. Mazarelle’s first move is to arrest Ali Sedak, even though he suspects that the evidence against him is a little too suspiciously generous. It’s not until Ali’s death in his cell that the wheels of justice start moving in the right direction. By that time the Reeces’ daughter Molly, a Manhattan assistant district attorney, has arrived on the scene to be wined and dined and menaced by the suave Reiner in his improbable guise as Pierre Barmeyer.
By-the-numbers plotting, with a killer whose motivations make you wonder how he’s lasted so long; a police hero who’s bound to return in further installments; and some meals you’ll remember long after the 10 fatalities have faded from memory.