Death in the Vines: A Verlaque and Bonnet Provencal Mystery is an excellent choice for both mystery lovers and Francophiles.
Don't pay too much attention to the cover which might lead you astray as to the plot and genre--this isn't a typical cozy mystery. It is a cozy in the setting and the lack of explicit violence, but the detectives are not amateurs like Miss Marple; they are professionals with experience. Also, while the setting has some village characteristics, Aix-en-Provence is a small city that retains some of its small-town atmosphere even as it continues to grow.
An intelligent mix of interesting, complex characters and French culture and wine making, the novel's plots and subplots kept me completely involved. There is no effort to sensationalize the murders as many contemporary novels do. Murder is considered serious enough without including weird and shocking elements, and Judge Verlaque and Commissioner Paulik are as dedicated to apprehending the murderer as to discovering the thief of priceless wines and finding an old woman with Alzheimers who has apparently wandered off. Well, the murders do take priority, of course, but the men are concerned about anything that happens in their district.
In addition to learning about grapes and wines, Aix-en-Provence and its difficulties with rapid growth, French food (drool inducing visit to a restaurant)--I especially liked the section about Citroens. Odd, because I can't tell one car from another and have never been interested in cars at all, but on finishing the book, I went straight to several sites and images of Citroens. Having a poet describe vintage Citroens could set up new aficionados everywhere.
We are all so individual in our bookish tastes that I rarely bother to "recommend," but Francophiles (I'm not one, but with novels like this could easily become one) should certainly seek out Longworth's novels. This is the third novel in the series, and I will definitely look for the first two and will follow the series in the future.
:) Reminds me that I need to check on Martin Walker's Bruno: Chief of Police series again.
Mystery. Publ. date May 28, 2013. Print version 304 pages.