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by M L Longworth
Penguin Books, May 2013
289 pages
ISBN: 0143122444

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Olivier Bonnet is desolated when he finds his wine cellars have been robbed. Oddly, not all the wines were of the best vintages. It had to be an inside job, because the key to the vineyard remained in place. It doesn't take long to figure out that the culprit was Bonnet's father, who suffers from Alzheimer's and has been going around town giving wine to anyone who looks like they could use cheering up.

Meanwhile Judge Antoine Verlaque becomes embroiled in a case involving a brutal attack on a young woman, Suzanne Montmory. She was beaten and raped and is now recovering in the hospital. Her prognosis is very good, but the day after her admission she dies of what appears to be heart failure.

Another young women is killed in much the same fashion. Yet another victim is Pauline d'Arras, beaten with a rock and left to die at one of the vineyards. Mme d'Arras also suffered from Alzheimer's. and, like many with the disease, had become totally disoriented. (I can personally vouch for the realism of Longworth's treatment of the disease as I lost two siblings to it.)

Longworth has a great sense of setting a scene. Which of us has not wanted to murder an officious bureaucrat? Two police officers come to the hospital to seek help from a doctor. One secretary has I-pod buds in her ears while she is speaking on the phone. The other is striding self-importantly around brandishing a clipboard. Both of them tell the police that they'll just have to wait. The doctor herself finally rescues them.

Only one scene didn't ring true. One of Mme d'Arras' sisters is a cloistered nun. Things may be different in France but if my memories of a Catholic girlhood are correct, cloistered nuns did not have any contact with the outside world, and one would NEVER be alone with a man in her bedroom.

All in all, a very satisfying book, but I wouldn't read it on an empty stomach - unless a large supply of food and wine is close at hand.

Mary Elizabeth Devine taught English Literature for 35 years, is co-author of five books about customs and manners around the world and lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts.

Reviewed by Mary Elizabeth Devine, May 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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