A community carol sing turns deadly.
Christmas season is a trying time for examining magistrate Antoine Verlaque (The Secrets of the Bastide Blanche, 2018, etc.). Booths crowd the town square of Aix, blocking access to his favorite cafes, and when he watches his friends celebrate, it brings back sad memories of his own neglectful parents. But this year, his wife, Marine Bonnet, on leave from her job teaching law to write a book, seems unusually eager to join the community caroling at the Anglo-Protestant Church of Aix, so he reluctantly agrees to accompany her. And it’s a good thing he does, since right before the service, American expat Cole Hainsby eats a plate of food provided by vendors from Aix’s sister cities across Europe, Africa, and North America—and dies. Verlaque quickly determines that Hainsby was poisoned. The list of suspects is extensive. Hainsby was a shady operator who may be in debt to even shadier Corsicans from Marseille. His wife, Debra, is exasperated by his financial failures and perhaps a little too cozy with her boss, Alain Sorba, who runs an expensive private school for students who don’t quite fit into Aix’s excellent public schools. Verlaque must also ponder whether the couple from Perugia who made the eggplant Parmesan or the Philadelphia siblings who whipped up the cheesesteaks may have had some unknown reason to do away with the entrepreneur. But the knotty problem doesn’t prevent Verlaque from enjoying his favorite eating places and even discovering an excellent new addition to Aix’s dining scene.
A typical Longworth cassoulet of good food, fine wine, and murder.