Written by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen, translated by Sally Pane — This is the third in the Winemaker Detective series co-written by two French journalists who love gourmet food and wine. This gentle series features two amateur detectives – wine specialist Benjamin Cooker and his able assistant Virgile Lanssien. In this book they leave their native Bordeaux region and venture as far away as Burgundy on a wine tasting trip. Yet Cooker’s peaceful stay is soon disturbed by a spate of graffiti defacing the old buildings of the pretty villages in the area. Is it really just teenage vandalism? If that’s the case, why is it in Latin? The fiery messages of Biblical origin intrigue and unsettle Cooker in equal measure.
Events turn nasty when some over zealous villagers shoot and kill two youths suspected of carrying out the vandalism. In the frigid, wintry landscape around Dijon and Beaune, no-one seems eager to share secrets with the two wine loving strangers. There is much talk of evil spirits, exorcism and revenge. Can a friendly journalist and an elderly monk help them to discover the truth behind all the hysteria and rumours?
Despite the grim-sounding title, this book is anything but a nightmare. It is a comforting, pleasant read, suitable for those who love good food, French country life and finding out more about wine production and wine tasting. The series now numbers 21 books and the first few have been successfully adapted for French television. The authors readily admit that they write to amuse and entertain both themselves and their readers, so this will make a nice change from more harrowing crime fiction, although you might find yourself somewhat frustrated by the lack of procedural complexity.
This is not the book for you if you expect your French literature to be blacker than coffee. The puzzle won’t be very challenging if you’re a regular crime reader and the pace is more leisurely than one might expect. What it lacks in caffeine, however, it more than makes up for in local flavour. If you want a strong sense of provincial French atmosphere, then this is the book for you. It is also excellent at pointing out the differences between the various regions of France. I would recommend it as an escapist holiday read or more generally for fans of cosy fiction. I certainly look forward to exploring other grape growing areas in France with the fun duo, perhaps with a glass of wine in my hand.
The book is available for Kindle now, and will be in print in July.
Le French Book
CFL Rating: 3 Stars