My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Julie Cavallo returns to her hometown of Beldoc in the Provence region of France, to open her own patisserie, Julie’s Gluten-Free Delights, and get a fresh start after her recent, and sudden, divorce. Business has been slow to build up but Julie is optimistic that her planned marketing events will get the word out: free Wi-Fi, free samples during the upcoming lavender trade show, and a class on making macarons at the shop. However, when one of her students drops dead in the first macaron class, the effect on her business is anything but positive.
Then when a friend of the deceased comes to the shop, Julie gets a “vision” that Maurice was being poisoned rather than experiencing a heart attack, she asks the local officer handling the death to look deeper. When the gendarmerie goes ahead and closes the case anyway, she decides to investigate the murder herself and prove that the shop was is no way responsible.This first in a new series by author Ana T. Drew is a solid mystery with great characters in a small town setting. It is set in France but other than a few French terms and phrases, it really could have been any small town, not a lot of flavor, but not a detractor at all.
Julie has three sisters and is a twin to one, Catherine. “Cat” is mentioned regularly but really doesn’t make much of an appearance; the girls are estranged over the existence of their psychic abilities. (Cat makes her living using her skill while Julie has hidden it from everyone her entire life, and Julie is uncomfortable with Cat’s making this ability public.) But other than the intermittent psychic “snapshots” she gets, Julie seems to be a pretty normal woman working through some past traumas. I liked her curiosity and willingness to go ask questions of anyone involved in the deceased man’s life and then doubting and re-thinking her choices. She’s confident enough to approach her hostile next door business neighbor, Magda, and to attempt to mend fences she doesn’t even know she broke.Other characters of note include Julie’s grandmother, Rose Tassy, a youthful and sassy survivor of the 60s who teaches “doga” classes and knows everyone in town. Also, the local notary, Maître Serge Guichard, a nice older man who is attracted to Rose. And then there is the potential love interest for Julie, Capitaine Gabriel Adinian with the Beldoc gendarmerie.
On the other hand, there are a number of characters introduced in this first book that don’t get completely into this story but are perhaps being set up for the future such as Denis Noble, a former junior-high-level classmate of Julie’s that is trying really hard to interest her romantically. But even Julie doesn’t know much about Denis and we were both left wondering what his true motives are in showing up now. Another interesting character is Julie’s sous chef, Eric Dol. He’s funny, sweet, sometimes a little awkward, and has his own tragic past.In all, I liked one enough to give it 3 stars out of 5 for a “Good” rating, and to put it on my list to look for more books in the series in the future. I would recommend this book to cozy mystery readers, especially those that enjoy culinary settings.
I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving a free copy.
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