Greetings dear readers and friends. Well, what a delightful surprise to be asked to review the sequel to Death in Provence, the thoroughly captivating Death in Avignon.
I’d like to take us back, not so long ago, when our dear friend Penelope Kite was setting herself up in a somewhat crumbly, but altogether charming, villa in the Luberon region of Provence. Ms. Kite, having moved on from a divorce and determined to get her 50-something groove on away from her children’s prying eyes, ends up an amateur sleuth after an unfortunate bit of foul play on her property. From here, Death in Provence introduces us to a cast of colorful characters against the lush backdrop of the South of France – rich in culinary traditions, local folklore, and of course, oodles of wine.
The sequel, Death in Avignon, was like sitting down with a chilled glass of rosé and catching up with old friends. The dashingly handsome mayor of St. Merlot is back, Laurent Millais, as well as the pristine French estate agent Clémence Valencourt. Not only does Laurent make Penny’s heart beat just a tad faster, but he also invites her to an art exhibition in Avignon which launches her into another case of mystery and intrigue.
There’s something sinister afoot in the eclectic art community of the South of France, and with her forensic background and finely-tuned sense of intuition, Penny is just the lady for the job. Of course, she’ll need to fortify herself with some gloriously-long French dinners and lunches, and call on the services of her best-friend-in-crime, Frankie – who takes the term joie de vivre to a whole other level.
In between gorgeous descriptions of the Luberon countryside and surrounding villages, we’re treated to an intimate look at Provençal life. Author Serena Kent (the nom de plume for Deborah Lawrenson and her husband Robert Rees) is an expert on French culture and gives the reader spot-on insights into the hearts, and stomachs, of her engaging characters.
Not only do we re-connect with our old friends from Death in Provence, but we also meet a new cast of personalities who keep us guessing at every turn. There’s the British “ladies man”, Don Doncaster, whose gaudy, over-the-top paintings somehow sell surprisingly well. Has this made him enemies among the group? The charming and slightly mysterious French gallery owner, Gilles de Bourdan, seems to have taken a particular fancy to Penny. Is there romance in the air or is there another reason he’s looking to get closer to our heroine?
Those are just a few of the captivating characters we meet in this modern murder-mystery which flows seamlessly from chapter to chapter. There’s never a dull moment and I literally raced from beginning to end in two days flat. Dare I say I liked the sequel even more than Ms. Kent’s first work?
It could easily be the fact that this time around I felt even more attached to the lovable, and laughable, Penny and her endearing side-kick Frankie. The writing is just as clever and witty as in Death in Provence, but with added layers of understanding as we dive deeper into the lives of our favorite characters.
Humorous and light-hearted, with a plotline that you can’t put down, Death in Avignon is the perfect escapist read for dreaming of sun-washed Provence and intrigue à la Française.
Death in Provence was published in the US and Canada in February this year in hardback, and will be out in paperback in February 2020.