Saturday, April 28, 2018

Love and Death in Burgundy (A French Village Mystery #1)

Author:  Susan C. Shea
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Digital Book; Audiobook
ISBN #:  9781250113009
Minotaur Books
272 Pages
$13.74; $2.99 Amazon
May 2, 2017


After three years of living in the small town of Reigny-sur-Canne, all Katherine Goff really wants is to be accepted by her neighbors into their little community.  But as an American expat living in the proud region of Burgundy, that's no easy task.

When the elderly Frenchman who lives in the village chateau is found dead at the bottom of a staircase, the town is turned into a hot bed of gossip and suspicion, and Katherine suddenly finds herself drawn deeper and deeper into the the small town's secrets.  A motherless teenager, a malicious French widow, a brash music producer, and a would-be Agatha Christie are among those caught up in a storm that threatens to turn Katherine's quiet life upside down.  As more and more of the villagers' secrets are brought to light, Katherine must try to figure out who, if anyone, in the town she can trust, and which one of her neighbors just might be a killer.


Katherine Goff is an American artist and her husband is an ex-musician who live in a small town in France.  She's tried hard for three years to be accepted by her chosen country, but hasn't been able to truly become one of them.  She does hope that her luncheon on this day will be a help.  While she's only invited the local ladies - which include two other Americans and an Englishwoman - trouble begins to brew when the husband of one of the French women arrives to pick her up and a man he hates, Yves, also shows up.

It seems Yves dropped his daughter Sophie to date another American, Penny, and the Bellegardes hate him.  When Monsieur Bellegarde arrives to pick up his wife, so does Yves, and they get into an argument which culminates in M. Bellgarde breaking a plate over Yves' head.  While it looks like a minor disaster, it soon turns into something worse.

Katherine is called from her bed in the middle of the night because M. Bellegarde is dead, apparently from a fall down the stairs.  But people begin to become suspicious, and now everyone is looking around for suspects.  But will they find the killer or will Yves become murderer by default?

Since this is a first-in-the-series book, I try to give a pass to the author.  But there were so many things that bothered me that I had a difficult time doing so.  First off, the author tells us that Katherine's husband doesn't speak any French.  Why would he want to move to a country where he doesn't speak the language?  He's been there three years and hasn't managed to pick up anything or at least get someone to teach him?  Is he going to have his wife continually translate?  Is he going to use sign language to indicate what he's interested in at market?  Is he expecting the locals to speak his language?  That in itself seemed off to me.

Then I began to wonder why, in this small town, there were so many people from other places - Katherine and her husband, an American country singer and family, a rich woman from Cleveland; and even an Englishwoman.  Is this village advertised as a haven for expatriates?

But here's the kicker where the book lost me, and almost right away (although I did continue reading)  why would you go to someone's home and take a plate from what is obviously a nice set and break it over someone else's head?  Who does that?  I can't imagine anyone who would just help themselves to someone else's dinnerware and destroy it like that - and not even apologize or offer to replace it.  Is this how the French behave?

Then there's Katherine - a weak woman if I ever saw one.  She didn't have a single strong character trait at all, and therefore was not likable and honestly I got tired of reading about Katherine going to flea sales and buying things.  Who cares where she bought her dishes or doilies?  I certainly don't.  Michael never seemed happy - it appeared he wanted to be anywhere except where he was, and I wondered why they didn't just move back to the states.

But it doesn't stop there:  There's the little problem of Jeanette, a young teenager who has a habit of stealing, even from the mouth that feeds her.  She not only steals from Katherine, she plays her for a fool and spies on people...and there's no consequences for her at all; nada, nothing.  Saying her father was a thief or that she had no mother doesn't make it alright.  Why didn't she get in trouble for her actions?  Who would want someone like her around them?  I'd put a mile wide fence around my house if it meant keeping my possessions.

There's a couple more things that bother me, including my feeling about the ending, but since I didn't want to give it away, I put it in a spoiler below:

All in all, I hope in the next book Katherine will have gained a backbone and actually not be afraid to stand up to people and treat her husband a little bit better than she does.  I will read the next in the series to see if it has improved.


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