22 March 2022

Review: DEATH IN BRITTANY, Jean-Luc Bannalec

  • this edition from my local library
  • first published in German 2012
  • Translated into English 2014 by Sorcha McDonagh
  • published June 2015 by Minotaur books
  • ISBN 978-1-250-06174-4
  • 318 pages 

Synopsis (publisher)

Commissaire Georges Dupin, a cantankerous, Parisian-born caffeine junkie recently relocated from the glamour of Paris to the remote (if picturesque) Breton coast, is dragged from his morning croissant and coffee to the scene of a curious murder. The local village of Pont-Aven—a sleepy community by the sea where everyone knows one other and nothing much seems to happen—is in shock. The legendary ninety-one-year-old hotelier Pierre-Louis Pennec, owner of the Central Hotel, has been found dead.

A picture-perfect seaside village that played host to Gaugin in the nineteenth century, Pont-Aven is at the height of its tourist season and is immediately thrown into uproar. As Dupin delves into the lives of the victim and the suspects, he uncovers a web of secrecy and silence that belies the village's quaint image.

A delectable read, Jean-Luc Bannalec's Death in Brittany transports readers to the French coast, where you can practically smell the sea air and taste the perfectly cooked steak frites in an expertly crafted, page-turning mystery for fans of Martin Walker.

My Take

The 91 year old hotelier's violent death couldn't have happened at a worse time. The holiday season is about to begin and have the hotel's restaurant closed because it is a crime scene is an inconvenience for many.

The village was once the haunt of Gauguin and other artists and there is a museum that tourists flock too. Most of the hotels including the Central have exhibitions of copies of Gauguin paintings.

Commissaire Georges Dupin is not a local - he only moved to Pont-Aven four years ago- but he thinks he knows the area pretty well. He quickly finds out that the hotelier has recently found out that he had not long to live, and had begun to put his affairs in order. Dupin wonders who also knew that. What dispositions did the will make? Were people happy about their inheritances, or had they come as a shock for some. On the surface of it, apart from the Central hotel itself, and some derelict warehouses, the hotelier did not have a lot of value. His heir is his son who lives locally, and he has a half-brother from whom he has been estranged most of his life. 

Dupin also quickly discovers that not everyone is telling him the truth.

Dupin works extraordinarily long days, can't start the day without at least three cups of coffee, is rather cantankerous, and does not relate well either to his superiors or his underlings. He finds it hard to remember to keep everyone in the loop. He expects unquestioning obedience and is fortunate to have a secretary who takes his phone calls and shields him from the worst anger. 

The novel takes an extraordinary twist when there is a second death and the field of suspects narrows.

My rating: 4.4

About the author

JEAN-LUC BANNALEC is a pseudonym. The author divides his time between Germany and coastal Brittany, France. Death in Brittany, the first case for Commissaire Dupin, was published in German in March 2012 and sold 600,000 copies, spending many months on the bestseller list. It has been sold into 14 countries. 

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