cover image The Orchid Shroud: A Novel of Death in the Dordogne

The Orchid Shroud: A Novel of Death in the Dordogne

Michelle Wan, . . Doubleday, $23.95 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-385-51458-3

Wan's sequel to her debut, Deadly Slipper (2005), nicely depicts an appealing village in the Dordogne, a part of France rarely seen as a fictional setting, and two lead characters with interesting vocations. Unfortunately, an overly complicated plot pulls the story off the rails. Interior designer Mara Dunn is overseeing the restoration of a manor owned by Christophe de Bonfond, scion of the area's leading family, when workmen make a terrible discovery: the remains of an infant, wrapped in a silken shroud and buried inside the thick walls. This horror puts Mara and her sometime boyfriend Julian Wood, landscape designer and orchidologist, on a circuitous pathway of investigation that toggles back and forth between centuries and between rival branches of the aristocratic family, and includes enough story lines to furnish half a dozen novels. The end result is not a more mysterious mystery but a cumbrous muddle. (July)