Introducing a seductive new mystery series set in Provence-featuring chief magistrate Antoine Verlaque. Set in charming and historic Aix-en-Provence, France, "Death at the Chteau Bremont" introduces readers to Antoine Verlaque, the handsome and seductive chief magistrate of Aix, and his on-again, off- again love interest, law professor Marine Bonnet. When local nobleman Etienne de Bremont falls to his death from the family chteau, the town is abuzz with rumors. Verlaque suspects foul play and must turn to Marine for help when he discovers that she had been a close friend of the Bremonts. This is a lively whodunit steeped in the rich, enticing, and romantic atmosphere of southern France.
Introducing a seductive new mystery series set in Provence-featuring chief magistrate Antoine Verlaque. Set in charming and historic Aix-en-Provence, France, "Death at the Chateau Bremont" introduces readers to Antoine Verlaque, the handsome and seductive chief magistrate of Aix, and his on-again, off- again love interest, law professor Marine Bonnet. When local nobleman Etienne de Bremont falls to his death from the family chateau, the town is abuzz with rumors. Verlaque suspects foul play and must turn to Marine for help when he discovers that she had been a close friend of the Bremonts. This is a lively whodunit steeped in the rich, enticing, and romantic atmosphere of southern France.
M. L. Longworth has lived in Aix-en-Provence since 1997. She has written about the region for the Washington Post, the Times (London), the Independent (London), and Bon Appetit. She is the author of a bilingual collection of essays, Une Americaine en Provence. She is married and has one daughter.
Praise for M. L. Longworth's Provencal Mystery series "The Verlaque and Bonnet mysteries . . . plunge you into a languid world of epicurean pleasures and good living." --Eleanor Beardsley, NPR
"Beguiling . . . Longworth evokes the pleasures of France in delicious detail--great wine, delicious meals, and fine company." --Publishers Weekly
"Longworth's novels . . . are mysteries for foodies, with the plot providing a table upon which the enchanting meals and accompanying wines are served." --Booklist
Praise for Death at the Chateau Bremont
"This first novel in a projected series has charm, wit, and Aix-en-Provence all going for it. Longworth's voice is like a rich vintage of sparkling Dorothy Sayers and grounded Donna Leon . . . Longworth has lived in Aix since 1997, and her knowledge of the region is apparent on every page. Bon appetit." --Booklist
"A promising debut for Longworth, who shows there's more to France than Paris and more to mystery than Maigret." --Kirkus Reviews
"Mystery and romance served up with a hearty dose of French cuisine. I relished every word. Longworth does for Aix-en-Provence what Frances Mayes does for Tuscany: You want to be there--NOW!" --Barbara Fairchild, former editor in chief, Bon Appetit
"Death at the Chateau Bremont is replete with romance, mystery, and a rich atmosphere that makes the south of France spring off the page in a manner reminiscent of Donna Leon's Venice. A wonderful start to a series sure to gain a legion of fans." --Tasha Alexander, author of the Lady Emily mysteries
"Longworth has a good eye and a sharp wit, and this introduction to Verlaque and Bonnet holds promise for a terrific series." --The Globe and Mail
"Death at the Chateau Bremont offers charming French locales, vivid characters and an intriguing who-done-it." --Kevin R. Kosar, author of Whiskey: A Global History
"Here's hoping the series lasts for years." --RT Book Reviews
"Your readers will eat this one up." --Library Journal
"This first novel in a projected series has charm, wit, and Aix-en-Provence all going for it. Longworth's voice is like a rich vintage of sparkling Dorothy Sayers and grounded Donna Leon. The mix of aristocratic mystery and guide to Provencal wines, foods, habits, and Aix itself is a delight, and the old- fashioned plot line, with actual clues planted for the reader, offers a refreshing return to Golden Age values. A nobleman, with a house in Aix and a crumbling chateau just outside the city, falls to his death from a window. Enter the duo of Antoine Verlaque, the sexy magistrate of Aix, who, according to French law, must respond to and advise police on all suspicious deaths, and his ex-lover, law professor Marine Bonnet. Verlaque seeks Bonnet's advice since she was close to the victim and the Bremont family. The action proceeds against a classic format of interrogating suspects, including Bremont's playboy brother who has ties to the Russian Mob on the Cote d' Azur. The sexual tension and maneuvering that accompany the interviews are, at times, hilarious. Longworth has lived in Aix since 1997, and her knowledge of the region is apparent on every page. Bon app tit." -Connie Fletcher, Booklist (Starred)
When local nobleman tienne de Bremont falls to his death from the family ch teau, it sets the idyllic town of Aix-en-Provence abuzz with rumors.
Saint-Antonin, France APRIL 17, 12:05 A.M. The attic light was burnt out. He''d talk to Jean-Claude tomorrow. Étienne sensed that the caretaker had never really liked him, or perhaps his coolness was out of respect for their difference in class; Jean-Claude was polite but never looked his employer in the eye. They had easily avoided each other while Étienne''s parents were still alive, but as Étienne was now the only Bremont living in Aix, the ch'teau''s enormous upkeep required that owner and caretaker have more frequent contact. Jean-Claude was a huge man but clumsy. His size had never caused Étienne much worry, but there was something in the way Jean-Claude looked at him sometimes that made him uneasy. Étienne de Bremont had recently found himself fascinated by the caretaker''s enormous hands, which would lie stiffly at his sides as he received his employer''s blunt instructions; after a few seconds his fat fingers would slowly, and then quickly, begin to twitch, as if they were waiting for messages from the brain that would call them into action. At any rate, the fingers seemed to be thinking ahead of the slow, still hands. Luckily Étienne had brought a flashlight with him, out of habit. There was always a burnt-out lightbulb somewhere in the crumbling ch'teau--a home that no one lived in, more trouble than it was worth. He shone the light around the dusty room, one of the only rooms of the twenty-odd that brought him some good memories. His first ten-speed bike was propped up in a corner: it had taken him downhill into Aix-en-Provence in forty-five minutes, the return trip took almost double that. He was fit then, and still was, considering in five years he would be forty. Next to the bike, a rosary hung on the post of a nineteenth-century iron bed, as it always had, and he thought of her laughing face and green eyes. He missed her, but it wouldn''t do to call. Their lives were too different, their friends too different. Especially their friends. There was a full moon that night, and Étienne walked over to the window. It was covered by a wooden shutter a meter wide and two meters tall. He swung it open, careful to latch it against the stone wall with his left hand as he held on tightly to the inner wall with his right. The window was open to the elements: years ago the hay had been brought in through this opening for the winter. They had never bothered to put glass in the window. Each Bremont family member learned, as soon as they were tall enough to be able to reach the wrought-iron latch, how to open the window without falling out. The moonlight now filled up the room and would give him enough illumination to read what he had come for. The Louis Vuitton suitcase was on the floor near his right foot, and he picked it up and set it on the wooden dresser that was filled with moth-eaten blankets. The lock on the suitcase had been opened, probably by his brother, François. He quickly opened the suitcase and grabbed the first papers that lay on top, flipping hurriedly through the documents. He didn''t understand why he suddenly felt so rushed--Jean-Claude was gone, an hour and a half away, until tomorrow--but he was anxious all the same and couldn''t stop his hands from shaking. The lawyers'' and notaries'' documents were handwritten, in the graceful script he and his brother were taught to use in the first grade, with fountain pens his father had bought at Michel on the cours Mirabeau. The papers were out of order, and mixed in with the legal documents were odd bits of paper that characterized his noble family''s disregard for money, for filing, and for organization in general. Receipts had been kept in flour tins; hundred-franc bills were dropped or hidden under the library''s faded Persian carpet; the electricity and telephone companies had to call regularly because of late payments, but they never dared to cut off the ch'teau''s power. He began separating the papers, dividing twenty-year-old bank statements and shopping lists from important legal documents. He laughed as he picked up a yellowed receipt from Aix''s best p'tisserie, still in operation, with a fourth-generation chef doing the baking. The receipt was for two brioches, which could have been for him and François, or Marine, except that it dated from the 1950s, years before any of them had been born. He held the receipt in his hands, calming down a bit and allowing himself to think again of Marine and their friendly preadolescent arguments over the merits of brioches versus croissants, or the chocolate powder Banania versus Quik. She could always outargue him. Étienne de Bremont''s smile froze when he heard the ch'teau''s front door open. Instinct told him to stand closer to the wall, partly hiding his thin frame in the shadows. He took off his reading glasses and rested them inside his V-neck sweater. Footsteps quickly ran up the first flight of stairs, and then down the hall and up the second flight, down the next hall and up the last set of stairs, these narrower and wooden rather than stone. Holding his breath, Étienne reasoned that the footsteps probably belonged to Jean-Claude, who must have gotten it into his head that he couldn''t possibly spend a night away from the ch'teau. His stupid plants would miss him too much. When the attic door opened, Étienne pointed his flashlight at the figure in the doorway; he sighed and said, "What are you doing here?" The shutter rattled intermittently against the stone wall as Étienne spoke to his uninvited visit∨ a strong wind had begun to blow, carrying their voices out the open window, over the pine trees, and up the hill toward the field of lavender. As the wind grew louder so did their voices, now tinged with anger. Étienne, oddly enjoying the insults, imagined that he could smell lavender. He was getting bored with this exchange. For a split second, he turned his face toward the open window, in order to inhale the night breeze, and as he turned back around, he heard a rushing sound on the attic''s wooden floor and felt hands on his chest. The mistral blew around his body as he fell. He looked up at the attic window and saw the faint light from his flashlight, and he heard the wind, not whistling, but groaning. Even in the few seconds before his death, all Étienne de Bremont could think of were those two brioches and how he had always preferred brioches to croissants. Chapter One Saint-Antonin, France APRIL 17, 5:30 P.M. Verlaque stood in front of the caretaker''s house. It was a medieval cotta≥ its thick walls made of a golden, rough-hewed stone that glowed in the late afternoon light. The windows were small, to keep out the summer heat, and their wooden shutters were painted a faded gray-blue. Behind Verlaque loomed the mountain. He remembered what Paul Cézanne had said of the montagne Sainte-Victoire--that he could move his easel half a meter and see a totally different mountain. Verlaque tried it now, shifting his heavy body slightly to the right. It worked. The spiky top of one of the mountain''s many limestone knobs--its south flank resembled a dinosaur''s back--came into view. A shadow suddenly floated across the peak, and its color changed from dusty rose to gray. He turned back around and looked at the ch'teau, not really a ch'teau but a bastide --a country home built by Aix-en-Provence''s wealthy seventeenth-century citizens, who every July would leave their downtown mansions and make their way, servants in tow, to the cooler countryside. It was cold up here--although less than ten kilometers from Aix, Saint-Antonin was five hundred meters above sea level--and Verlaque realized that he had left his jacket in the car. The bastide , like the cottage, was built of golden stone, but this stone had been smoothly cut. Giant yellow-and-green-glazed earthenware pots, now chipped and cracked, lined the pebbled walk that led to the front door. He noticed that despite the poor shape of the pots, each one contained a healthy oleander, not yet in bloom. Another pebbled walk, lined on either side with rows of lavender, cut across a manicured lawn and led down to a centuries-old ornamental pool. Verlaque walked down the path, aware of his newly acquired kilos and his stomach pushing against his Italian leather belt--living alone didn''t mean that he now ate less, as he imagined other bachelors did after a breakup. He sighed and promised himself that he would start running tomorrow, trying to think where his trainers might be. "Trainers," he said aloud in English, and smiled. His English grandmother had called them "trainers," and his French grandmother wouldn''t let him leave the house with them on. "Seulement pour le tennis," she would say. The pool''s water was green and murky and covered with leaves that had fallen from the plane trees that towered above it. At the far end was a fountain made from the bright orange and yellow marble that came from the mountain. It was in the shape of a lion''s head whose mouth spewed water into the pool. When he first came to Provence, Verlaque didn''t like the mont Sainte-Victoire marble--he thought it too bright, almost kitsch--but now he loved it. Marine''s bathroom sink was made of the same marble. He reached down and put his hand under the running water and thought of some lines from a Philip Larkin poem, his preferred grandmother''s preferred poet: "I put my mouth / Close to running water: / Flow north, flow south, / It will not matter, / It is not love you will find." He had found love with Marine, but not contentment, and so he let the love go. His past was too difficult to explain to Marine, and the more she tried to get Verlaque to talk about it, the more he withdrew. It was easier to be on his own, in his loft, with his books and paintings and cigars. They hadn''t spoken for over six
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