Mystery Novels set in Provence
Provence may not spring to mind as a setting for a mystery, but these authors think so. If you enjoy a who-done-it, this collection of murders, thefts, drug busts and generally bad actors is for you. Settings include Provencal vineyards, art galleries, and the chic French Riviera. Enjoy diving into the pages of these novels and attempting to solve the mysteries.
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George Bellairs, Death in High Provence, London, 2016. Initially published in 1957 in Great Britain by John Gifford Ltd., and in 1963 in the U.S. by Penguin. George Bellairs is the nom de plume of Harold Blundell (1902-1982), a mystery writer born in Heywood, Lancashire, in the United Kingdom. By day, he was a Manchester banker. By night and in his spare time, he wrote mysteries and articles for magazines and newspapers such as the Manchester Guardian under the pseudonym of George Bellairs. Mary-Jane Deeb reviewed him.
Death on the Riviera by John Bude (pen name) writes lyrically about the Riviera: the blue waters of the Mediterranean in Cap Martin. At first, the romantic magic of the Mediterranean leaves the stodgy Scotland Yard Inspector unmoved. But gradually, he falls under the spell of the place. Finally, with part of the mystery solved, Meredith realizes he must return home, shuddering to wet England. In her review, Mary-Jane Deeb writes that it is not easy to leave this book and return to real life, away from the beauty of this magical part of the world.
Mary-Jane Deeb is a published mystery writer and avid reader. Her first novel, published in 2004, was set in Provence: Murder on the Riviera. Her protagonists are amateur detectives: a French grandmere of the old school who lives in Grasse in an old country house (a mas) and her half-American and modern granddaughter Chrissy (Marie-Christine de Medici).
A Christmas Mystery in Provence was inspired by a family holiday in the town most famous for its perfume production. The Provençal Christmas traditions, from midnight mass to the thirteen desserts, gave Mary-Jane all the material she needed for this mystery.
Death of a Harlequin, set in Nice and Grasse in the spring, includes many traditions of the Mardi Gras carnival in Nice, with its vast flower-decked floats designed according to a particular theme that is different each year.
Writing a book is hard enough, but writing one with your spouse is a recipe for success. Death in Provence is Serena Kent’s first and your introduction to her main character, Penelope Kite. The nom-de-plume is perfect for a couple who split time between Provence and Kent in England.
The second book in this series, Death in Avignon, was published in June 2019—another page-turner for murder-mystery lovers. Penelope Kite is back with many of the same characters, but the crime scene has changed.
Mary Lou Longworth, better known as M.L. Longworth, is a Canadian writer best known for her Provençal mysteries set in Aix-en-Provence, where she moved with her family in 1997.
Death at the Chateau Bremont is the first book in the series, which to date counts thirteen mysteries set in Aix. As Longworth mentions in her blog, “Aix is a law “town – it has been since the Middle Ages – which seemed to me a good place to situate a mystery, and I imagined my protagonists involved in the law profession.” In this fir” t mystery, the author sets the stage for the other secrets by describing her central characters at length. Please read the book review by Mary-Jane Deeb here.
Set in the early 1950s, post-WWII Provence looked nothing like it does today. This setting is the backdrop for Mary Stewart’s Madam Will You Talk? a novel published in 1955. Deborah Lawrenson describes this book as the perfect escapism for the armchair traveller. “I love Mary Stewart’s suspense novels: their sense of adventure and intriguing storylines, their strong-willed heroines, and their transporting settings.”
Double Cross: The Second Crucifixion of Solomon Lunel by Nicholas Woodsworth hooked me in the first paragraph. At almost 90 years old, Solomon Lunel prepared his Shabbat eve meal of aioli paired with Provençal rosé, evoking memories of his days in Marseille as a younger man. He shared the supper with his son, David, a routine they had followed on Friday nights for years. With dinner finished, Solomon Lunel headed to the Lunel Foundation in Jerusalem, as this was his routine. However, that was the end of predictability!