cover image The Secrets of the Bastide Blanche: A Provençal Mystery

The Secrets of the Bastide Blanche: A Provençal Mystery

M.L. Longworth. Penguin, $16 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-14-313142-7

Framed as a conversation, Longworth’s stellar seventh Provençal mystery (after 2017’s The Curse of La Fontaine) offers elegant prose and a juicy plot. Over dinner at an upscale Manhattan restaurant on Sept. 22, 2010, mega-bestselling French author Valère Barbier auditions wine-savvy publishing tyro Justin Wong as the editor of his likely last book. Mesmerizing, manipulative Barbier keeps Wong and the reader on edge: is his book to be a confession or a cover-up? His wife, the famed potter Agathe Barbier, died mysteriously in 1988. Was it an accident or murder? Flash back to France earlier in 2010. Barbier has bought an abandoned château, La Bastide Blanche, up the road from police commissioner Bruno Paulik; his wine maker wife, Helene; and their precocious 10-year-old daughter, Léa. Barbier and the Pauliks develop a social relationship—rich with details of daily life in Aix-en-Provence—that grows tense with suspicion, until a terrifying fire clears the air. Series sleuth Antoine Verlaque looks into Valère’s shady past, while his wife and fellow sleuth, Marine Bonnet, investigates why La Bastide Blanche was abandoned. Francophiles will be enthralled. Agent: Katherine Fausset, Curtis Brown. (Apr.)