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I recently found this book, in the Hesperus Nova print as Death in Pont-Aven, though it was also published as Death in Brittany. Turns out it was also first printed in German (the pseudonymous author's native language, then in French (where the novel is set), before Sorcha McDonagh rendered it in English. Despite a laudatory cover blurb from M.C. Beaton and a boast of 700,000 copies sold worldwide, I'd never heard of the series. And, looking it up on Amazon, discovered it's not currently in print and the two used paperback copies available are priced over $60. A quarter seemed worth the risk.

When we first meet Commissarie Dupin he is basking in the climate and beauty of the town of Concarneau, but we are apparently picking him up midstory:
Daupin had spent his whole life amidst the glamour of Paris, but two years and seven months ago he had been 'relocated' to this remote backwater due to 'certain disputes' (as the internal memos had put it) and ever since then had drunk his petit cafe in the Amiral; it was a ritual as delightful as it was inflexible.

The rooms at the Amiral still had that wonderful atmosphere reminiscent of the nineteenth century when world-renowned artists, and then later Maigret, had stayed there. Gaugin once got himself into a brawl right outside after some sailors insulted his extremely young Javanese girlfriend.
The entire architecture of the novel, if not the series (?), is revealed right there. While, at least in this debut, we learn nothing of the reason for Daupin's banishment, the echoes of Inspector Montalbano, Hamish MacBeth and Simenon's Maigret seem quite intentional. Though the locals do not accept someone who's lived amongst them for such a short span to be a Breton, Daupin is happily ensconced in a setting where he can enjoy fine food and beautiful views. He is a loner, who maddeningly leaves even his own subordinates in the dark about what he's doing and thinking. And the artist colony of Pont Aven will play a central roll in the crime when he is summoned to the neighboring town to investigate the murder of a terminally-ill hotelier.

The author has practically written a travel guide and you can't read the book without wanting to visit Brittany. Daupin is enjoyable company, no less for his quirks (a love of penguins?) than for his genius. And the unraveling of the mystery is spiced with humor, good food, great art and natural beauty. As soon as the mass-market paperback comes to our shores you'll want to grab a copy.


Grade: (A)


See also:

Jean-Luc Bannalec Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Jörg Bong
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Jean-Luc Bannalec (IMDB)
    -BOOK SITE: Death in Pont-Aven Hesperus Press)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVE: Jean-Luc Bannalec (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Death in Brittany by Jean-Luc Bannalec (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Death in Pont-Aven (Jim Riordan, Peabody Institute Library)
    -REVIEW: of Death in Brittany (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Death in Pont-Aven (Raven, Crime Fiction Lovers)
    -REVIEW: of Death in Brittany ( Madelaine VanDerHeyden, The Daily UW)
    -REVIEW: of Death in Pont-Aven (Harriet Devine, Shiny new Books)
    -REVIEW: of Murder on Brittany Shores by Jean-Luc Bannalec (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Murder on Brittany Shores (Harriet Devine)
    -REVIEW: of Murder on Brittany Shores (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of The Missing Corpse: A Brittany Mystery by Jean-Luc Bannalec (Publishers Weekly)

Book-related and General Links:

    -VIDEO: Paul Gauguin, Vision after the Sermon, or Jacob Wrestling with the Angel (Smarthistory, 9/24/13)
    -WIKIPEDIA: Vision After the Sermon
    -Pont-Aven school (Encyclopaedia Britannica)
    -WIKIPEDIA: Pont-Aven School
    -WIKIPEDIA: Paul Gaugin
    -ESSAY: Pont-Aven Artists’ Colony: a brief history – 2, Gauguin and Bernard H Oakley, 11/05/17, Eclectic Light)
    -ESSAY: Paul Gauguin's Brittany: Where the artist discovered the power of colour: The visits of the French artist Paul Gauguin to Brittany freed him from the shadow of the Impressionists. Nick Trend follows in his footsteps (Nick Trend, 30 Sep 2010, the Telegraph)
    -GUIDE: Trail of Gauguin and the Pont-Aven School of painting (Finistere Brittany)
    -ESSAY: Paul Gauguin's Brittany: Then And Now (Hristos Fleturis, NOVEMBER 7, 2016, Culture Trip)
    -The Artist's Portfolio, Pont Aven (The Met)
    -ESSAY: Everything You Must Know About Pont-Aven School (Zuzanna Stanska, September 21, 2018, Daily Art)
    -ESSAY: The Painters of Pont-Aven Gauguin and others took new steps in art (John Dorsey, 11/20/94, THE BALTIMORE SUN)
    -ESSAY: Paul Gauguin: Vision after the Sermon. 1888. Analysis (Marina's Gallery)
    -ESSAY: The Origin of Paul Gauguin's Vision after the Sermon: Jacob Wrestling with the Angel (1888) Mathew Herban III, September 1977, The Art Bulletin)
-The Prints of the Pont-Aven School : Gauguin and his circle in Brittany (MOMA, 1986) [PDF]
    -School of Pont-Aven (Van Gogh Museum)