First Sentence: From the butcher to the baker to the café tabac, word spread through the village of Vaucreson that Monsieur John-Paul Bernard had moved a woman into the house he had ever so recently shared with his wife, Marian.
Documentary filmmaker Maggie McGowen is settling into her new life in France and her new live-in relationship with Jean-Paul Bernard and his son Dom, and houseman, Syrian refugee Ari. Trouble arises when Ophelia, the daughter of Jean-Paul's neighbor, disappears, especially as she was last seen in the company of Ahmad Nabi, a fellow refugee being tutored by Ari. Nabi is also missing. It is important that the teens be found before anti-refugee sentiments get out of control.
Isn't one always curious as to what others say about one? The beginning is a perfect setup for the protagonist to introduce herself and the community in which she now lives, as well as the home in which she now abides. A very well-done summary brings new readers up to date on Maggie, her life, and career.
Set in France, the dialogue includes common French words and phrases. One needn't be bilingual; however, their meaning is either easily inferred, or they are immediately translated, often for Maggie.
Food; one cannot have a story set in France without wonderful food. Ari's fish soup of tomatoes, grilled haddock, onion, garlic, peppers, and fresh oregano sets the juices flowing. However, meals also serve as a way to learn more about the characters, and Syrian refugees—"Afghans don't have surnames unless they decide to adopt one." …"I had learned that the current wave of refugees pouring out of mid-eastern war zones were, like Ari, more likely to represent their nation's educated urban elite than any other group."
The underlying theme of the story couldn't be more relevant; prejudice, fear, and distrust of those who are different while those who are afraid never make the effort to reach out. It is an irrational fear of the "other" based only on the fact that they are different from "us." This transitions nicely into the equally timely issue of bullying. Hornsby manages this in a way which is easy and natural to the scene.
It is nice to see the character of the police, in this case, a policewoman, go from being an adversary to an ally. The detective's reference to Maggie as the fictional Inspector Maigret is delightful.
Maggie is a wonderful character. One can't help but admire her for the way she can handle a difficult situation. All of Hornsby's characters are very human and relatable. This is never truer than when she turns an antagonist into someone for whom we feel true sympathy. Lest one think everything is dark and grim, rest assured there are interjections of humor-- "Detective Delisle has her eye on you." … "Tread gently, my friend, … She packs heat." Those who love Shakespeare may chuckle at the summary of "Hamlet." Such bits as these add both veracity and a soupçon of relief to the seriousness of the story.
"A Bouquet of Rue" is as much a commentary on today's social issues as it is a mystery and it is highly effective in both aspects. It reminds us that schadenfreude—pleasure derived by one at the misfortune of another--and the "domino effect of revenge" is a fascinating, and rather dangerous, principle worth contemplating. Yet the story also reminds one that life goes on.
A BOUQUET OF RUE (Mys-Maggie McGowen-France-Contemp) – VG+
Hornsby, Wendy – 12th in seriesPerseverance Press/John Daniel & Co. – April 2019