The author of the best-selling California Dreamers (1981, etc.) returns after 15 years in the Hollywood salt mines with a strongly plotted family novel/Frenchified thriller that crosses over into territory well mined by Peter Mayle and others. Chez Danton, a succulent and favored restaurant in the town of Aix-en-Provence, is owned by the parents of Commander Michel Danton, chief investigator of the Special Circumstances Section of the Judicial Police, who works only on the most difficult homicides when he’s not helping stock the restaurant and perform his other filial duties. Michel grew up in the restaurant trade and only abandoned it when he became bewitched by the rhapsody of the process and solution of unsolved murders. Now, he’s on sick leave, recovering from four shotgun blasts, when his girlfriend Yvette, a TV crime reporter, abandons him for Detective Sergeant Paul Corbel, who’s investigating a double homicide that Michel feels he himself should handle. Someone has beheaded a young man, then raped and strangled his girlfriend. We soon find out that the someone is American psychopath and serial killer Darrell Vernon Boynton, nicknamed Boy, “a ringer for Brad Pitt” who feels penniless and adrift in France after following his college girlfriend, Maddie Gold, there. For Boy, each murder is a taste treat. So, when Maddie turns some tricks at Madame Louise’s brothel to bring in some cash, but Madame stiffs Maddie and doesn’t pay her for her labors, Boy grows a fatal dislike for Aix’s sole procuress—and Madame Louise becomes what for Boy is a feast of giggles. Boy looks forward to giving Maddie’s pretty French tutor and chaperone, karate-trained Jennifer Bowen, a roll on the grass, but first he and Maddie must bond by formidably violating Louise with a curling iron, while Michel finds himself falling for Jennifer. No higher aspirations than the bestseller lists, but swaggeringly well-written. Smart, magnetic dialogue, suspenseful but very ghoulish, scenic, and filmable. Some pages you’ll read through your fingers.