Secrets and lies lead to shockingly violent murder in a small French town.
An intimately omniscient narrator introduces the village of Barles in the hilly region of Upper Provence, as well as its eerie cemetery and, finally, an ordinary postbox, the starting point of the mystery. Former postman Émile Pencenat is industriously digging his own grave when he spots an unposted letter and helpfully deposits it in said box. The recipient of the letter is the solitary Véronique, settling into spinsterhood in the family home, the piano her constant companion. Her flouncy friend Ambroisine visits unexpectedly and tells a chilling and rather implausible tale of a man who walks her attic at night, terrifying her. Shortly after, Véronique is attacked and killed with a bayonet by a man incongruously dressed as a sapeur (sapper). The bloody murder sends waves of fear through the small community and draws out of retirement inquisitive Commissaire Laviolette, a veteran investigator who lives nearby. He shares his droll observations with another elderly amateur sleuth, Judge Chabrand. Their probing digs up more than truffles (the region’s prized delicacy) in a story full of twists in a town full of outré characters.
A pleasantly old-fashioned mystery thriller with quirky charm aplenty. Magnan (Death in the Truffle Wood, 2007, etc.) fashions an intricate landscape of life in a French village while weaving menace and suspense into his tapestry.