Sunday, August 30, 2015

Death in Brittany by Jean-Luc Bannalec

First Sentence: The seventh of July was a magnificent summer’s day, one of those majestic Atlantic days that always lifted Commissaire Dupin’s spirits.

Parisian transplant, Comm. Dupin’s morning coffee is ruined by learning of the murder of Pierre-Louis Pennac, owner of the Central Hotel in Pont-Aven. But who would murder a ninety-one-year-old man. Dupin needs to find out before the crimes also murders the town’s tourist season.

Dupin is a somewhat deceptive protagonist. At first meeting, one might not be that impressed; yet one’s impression quickly changes with the arrival of a murder. He has a slight “Columbo” style of “just one more thing…” that is delightful. LeBar, Dupin’s second, is interesting. He has come to know Dupin’s style, and to anticipate his needs. Nolween, the woman who holds things together at the police station, is wonderfully resourceful. It is through her that we learn the history of Brittany and the Breton.

Set in Pont-Avan, it is interesting to learn the history of the town and its link to the Paul Gaugain and the other artists of his time. Wonderful descriptions provide an evocative sense of place…” Inhale in Concarneau and you tasted sale, iodine, seaweed, mussels in every breath, like a distillation of the entire endless expanse of the Atlantic, brightness and light.” “As evening came on, the light became more and more bewitching. The colours of witchcraft: everything shone brightly, warm soft and golden.” One is tempted to pack their bags and book a flight.

Food features deliciously in the story. Sometimes there are those things which are not so appealing; others times things such as Dupin’s favorite entrecote and chips; aka rib-eye steak and fries. It’s interesting the diversions Bannalec takes in order to provide descriptions of locations. It’s not a bad thing, just an interesting style. It is also interesting the way Dupin will plan to, or say he is going somewhere immediately, but then doesn’t. Bannalec conveys both the satisfaction of solving a case, and the frustration that can come from the actions of the higher-ups afterward. Yet Dupin, as does the ancient town in which he lives, perseveres.

Death in Brittany” has a plot definitely keeps one involved and the motive, when finally revealed, was interesting. There are excellent, shocking twists; yet it is always a delight when one reaches the “ah ha!” moment.

DEATH IN BRITTANY (Pol Proc-Comm. Georges Dupin-Breton, France-Contemp) - VG
Bannalec, Jean-Luc – 1st in series
Minotaur Books – June 2015

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