Murder on the Île Sordou

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51zzozesm7l-_sx325_bo1204203200_There is a good deal of happiness that comes from finishing a good book; from being twenty-four hours home from a lovely two week vacation; from sipping a light salmon-colored rosé from Provence; and from enjoying all this on my back porch under a brisk summer breeze. Murder on the Île Sordou is the best yet from M. L. Longworth. She does such a great job, especially in this one, of capturing people doing the things I best associate with France – savoring food, wine, conversation and, in the South, sunlight and the sea.

I love the silence here, and the breezes, Verlaque says at the end. And the smells, Bonnet revels. Part sea and part plant. The days and nights on Sordou reminded me of the two weeks I spent in Provence last summer – minus the murder which, as a testament to Longworth’s priorities here, doesn’t come until more than a hundred pages in. In addition to the intrigue, even more so, we get to savor Longworth’s affinity for fine wine and cigars; her descriptions of dinner menus so colorful they invite hunger and make the characters tear up; scrumptious drink recipes you can almost taste on a hot summer afternoon; lunch poems; delightful conversation between island guests you can’t help but wish you were one of, even though you know one of them surely must die. And before it’s all over, an entire chapter inspired by Babette’s Feast!

Longworth’s fourth book is like one of the meals she lovingly describes. There is so much going on, so many different delicious ingredients, and like a true chef de cuisine she manages the complexity of her art to produce something exquisitely simple, and deceptively sweet.

Up next: The Mystery of the Lost Cézanne.

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Death at the Château Bremont

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I first heard of M.L. Longworth (short for Mary Lou) a few months ago when I listened to this delightful profile that was part of NPR’s Crime in the City series. I was instantly fascinated by the cigar smoking Aix-pat: francophile, writer, teacher, connoisseuse. My local independent, Politics & Prose, carried her début novel, Death at the Château Bremont, and I flew through it over the new year weekend: the perfect complement to a minor sore throat and a splash of Baileys Irish Cream in my coffee.

I read several so-so reviews on Goodreads, but the primary detractions for some readers were precisely what drew me in to this colorful, fast-paced mystery: the lush descriptions of French food, wine, and countryside, all the things that make this book so, as Mark Twain might say, wonderfully Frenchy. Throw in a bit of intrigue and suspense? Sign me up. And the best part is that I’m late to the game: Longworth’s already got three more novels in the series!

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