Wednesday, January 4, 2017

“Death in Brittany” by Jean-Luc Bannalec

Police Commissioner Georges Dupin, a native Parisian, has been exiled from Paris to a small town on the southern Brittany coast. His “crime:” publicly criticizing a higher-up on the police force who became president of France. The criticism was valid, which made the Dupin’s crime even worse. So he lives and works in the backwater of the small town of Concarneau and the surrounding region.

Dupin is quite the personality. He often shows up to investigations wearing t-shirts and jeans. He’s still getting used to the accents, culture, and regional quirks of the Bretons he’s now living and working among (and because he’s from Paris, he will always be an outsider). He can be brusque, and has the habit of not telling his subordinates everything he’s doing and knows. He goes for long walks. One thing he loves about Brittany is the food.

He’s called to a murder scene in nearby Pont Aven, an area known for its historical ties to Impressionist painters like Paul Gauguin, who lived in the village in the late 1880s. The 91-year-old proprietor of the Central Hotel has been brutally killed (and right as the tourist season is starting). Dupin and his team run into brick wall after brick wall – few clues, no obvious motives, no one who saw or sensed anything out of the ordinary. But someone killed the man, beating him brutally before knifing him several times.

Jorg Bong, aka Jean-Luc Bannalec
Death in Brittany by Jean-Luc Bannaloc was first published in 2012 in Germany, where it was a best-seller. It’s now been translated into 14 languages and was published in English earlier in 2016. Bannalec (the name of a town in Brittany) is a pseudonym for Jorg Bong, a German writer, literary critic, translator, and editor who divides his time between Germany and Brittany. Bannalec has also published a second Dupin novel in English this year, Murder on the Brittany Shores; it’s currently only available in e-book format.

As Dupin investigates, he gradually discovers that the real clues to the murder lie on the walls of the hotel restaurant – numerous copies and prints of Impressionist paintings. Except one is not what it seems to be.

Death in Brittany is an entertaining, satisfying mystery – and a delightful fictional introduction to Brittany, its people, and its food.

Top photograph: actor Pasquale Aleardi as Police Commissioner Georges Dupin in the German television program based on the book.

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