Police Chief Bruno Corrèges of St. Denis, in the Dordogne region of France, is happy to be going to the 90th birthday party of 'The Patriarch' - Marco Desaix - whom Bruno has idolized since childhood. The Patriarch was a heralded aviator in WWII, awarded medals by both France and Russia.
The party guests include local aristocrats as well as DeSaix's extended family, including his sons (from different mothers) Yevgeny and Victor. Also present are Victor's gorgeous politically active wife Madeleine, their college age children Chantal and Marc, and Victor's best friend since their army days, Gilbert Clamartin - a troubled alcoholic.
During the party Gilbert is found dead, apparently having drunk too much and choked. Though a local doctor (and friend of the DeSaix family) declares Gilbert's death accidental, Bruno has an uneasy feeling and decides to investigate. He learns about a tangled web of 'cooperaton' between France and Russia during and after WWII, activities that involved The Patriarch, Victor, and Gilbert. Bruno suspects that - at the party - Gilbert might have threatened to reveal a secret that resulted in his murder.
Perhaps to distract Bruno from his investigation the DeSaix family 'courts' the police chief, inviting him to luncheons, wine and paté tastings, etc. And beautiful Madeleine pulls out all the stops, staging an all out seduction.
Other elements of the tale include an obsessive environmentalist whose 'protection' of wild deer endangers their lives and creates a serious road hazard; a prize-winning garden that's destroyed by wild boars; Gilbert's surprising will; a political rivalry; and an attempt on Bruno's life.
In addition to his investigative work Bruno goes about his everyday activities, which include horseback riding, eating breakfast at the local café, taking care of his garden, walking his lovable bassett hound, resolving a romantic relationhship, shopping, cooking for his hunt club celebration, and so on.
In fact, Bruno demonstrates some serious chef skills. He frequently invites guests to his home, where he prepares gourmet French meals accompanied by fresh baguettes and fine wines, all of which sounds delicious. The reader is also treated to vivid descriptions of the lovely St. Denis/Dordogne region of France, which sounds like a wonderful place to live (if it wasn't for all the pesky murders Bruno solves).
By the end of the book Gilbert's death is satisfactorally resolved. This is an enjoyable book in a wonderful setting. Recommended to mystery fans.
Rating: 3.5 stars