Aix and the Provence countryside provide a variety of vexations for examining magistrate Antoine Verlaque (Death at the Chateau Bremont, 2011, etc.).
First it was the wine at Domaine Beauclaire. Owner Olivier Bonnard reports dozens of bottles have disappeared, some very rare and valuable. Then Gilles d’Arras reports that when he arrived home at 12:30, his wife Pauline was missing—missing!—after having met him for lunch every day for 42 years. Between a trip to Paris to consult retired wine thief Hippolyte Thébaud and a delay caused by a suicide on the TGV line, there’s hardly time to investigate the rape and beating of bank clerk Suzanne Montmory. When Suzanne dies of her injuries, Verlaque and police commissioner Bruno Paulik interview her co-workers at the Bank of Provence in Éguilles. Still, their investigation stalls despite the best efforts of their bright young colleagues, Alain Flamant and Jules Schoelcher. Verlaque is so overwhelmed that he doesn’t even notice that his partner, law professor Marine Bonnet, has grown detached and pensive. It takes a visit to the missing Pauline’s sister Clothide in a cloister near Narbonne to force Verlaque to confront the ghosts of his past that cast shadows on his relationship with Marine. And it takes a second and even a third death to prompt Verlaque and Paulik to close the book on Aix’s crime spree.
Longworth loses some of her focus in her tangled third, whose plot twists as capriciously as Bonnard’s vines.