Let me get the most egregious bit out of the way: the editing was bad. I'd go so far as to say no human being copy-edited this book. Missing words, wrong words (it instead of is or to instead of so), words in the wrong order, and my favourite:
"She lingered under the shower, watching the hot water roll over her tummy, which was beginning to protrude a bit, down to her toes."
If your stomach is protruding down to your toes, it's probably protruding more than a bit.
And finally, I hate the word 'tummy' the same way so many hate 'moist', and it's used a lot in this book.
But it was a delightfully great mystery in a more traditional, rather than cozy, style. I had my doubts because frankly, I'd never heard of it or the others in the series and since it was a Penguin publication, I had to wonder why it didn't seem to receive much in the way of marketing love.
Verleque is an ass; he comes from great wealth and has grand ideas about food and wine and cigars, while his ex, Bonnet is cheerful and kind and universally loved. The death of Bonnet's old childhood friend brings them back into each others' orbits as Verleque investigates the death and relies on Bonnet's connections and memories to sort out what happened.
This is not a book for anyone with a low tolerance of character building; a lot of the book (third person pov) is spent getting to know Verleque and Bonnet as individuals before seeing them work together. What would feel like extraneous filler in other books seems necessary here to make Verleque sympathetic; he's still a bit of an ass, but by the end it seems more understandable, and a great personal secret lurks in the background, presumably to be revealed in a later book.
The mystery was really well plotted; so many possible avenues, a killer I didn't see coming and a not entirely neat and tidy ending. And the atmosphere: Aix-en-Provence - what is it about French countryside settings?
If you want a good, traditional mystery that spends time creating rich, complex characters, I definitely recommend this - but if you read digitally, maybe check out the ebook version in hopes that the editing debacle has since been corrected.
Page count: 311
$$: $9.00 (location multiplier applied)