Ready for an atmospheric, traditional police procedural? Jean-Luc Bannalec's Death in Brittany was a bestseller for many months in Germany after its 2012 publication there. It's not a fast-paced thriller, though, so it won't make the bestseller lists here. It's for those of us who appreciate a thoughtful police officer and the slow unraveling of a crime. In addition, there are the beautiful small towns of Brittany to entice a reader.
Commissaire Georges Dupin was banished from the Paris police force, sent to the remote Breton coast. However, he enjoys his mornings in Concarneau, sipping coffee at a waterfront cafe, away from the politics of Paris. But, the murder of a renowned ninety-one-year-old hotelier in nearby Pont-Aven threatens to thrust his latest case into the spotlight. Pont-Aven and the Central Hotel played host to Gaugin and other artists in the 19th century, building its reputation on the connection to the artists. Now, the death of Pierre-Louis Pennec throws the entire region in an uproar.
Dupin finds everyone shocked by the murder, but no one is particularly helpful when it comes to investigating the crime. And, a break-in at the crime scene only muddies the waters. It seems everyone associated with Pennec and the Central Hotel has a closely-guarded secret. It will take a few walks and a few cups of coffee for Dupin to dig through his thoughts for the truth.
Dupin, with his love of coffee, good food, and walks by the sea, is only slightly eccentric as a detective. His biggest flaw is his inability to hold his tongue, so he tries to avoid conversations and confrontations with the higher ups. And, with the trace of humor in this book when it comes to Dupin, he acknowledges that. "He found it a bit sad, because he lacked some of the 'hidden depths' which now seemed a quasi-requirement for his profession: drug addiction, or at least alcoholism, neuroses or depression to a clinical degree, a colourful criminal past, corruption on an interesting scale or several dramatically failed marriages. He didn't have any of those things to show off about."
Spend a day or two with Dupin, walking the paths of small-town Brittany, exploring the cafes and side streets, while pondering the mysteries of murder, Death in Brittany. It's a charming quiet mystery that introduces a traditional police detective and a story that reaches into the past.
Death in Brittany by Jean-Luc Bannalec. Minotaur Books. 2015. ISBN 9781250061744 (hardcover), 320p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.