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The secrets of the Bastide Blanche : a Provençal mystery /

by Longworth, M. L. (Mary Lou) [author.].
Material type: materialTypeLabelBookSeries: Longworth, M. L. Verlaque and Bonnet mystery: Publisher: New York, New York : Penguin Books, [2018]Edition: First edition.Description: 316 pages ; 20 cm.ISBN: 9780143131427; 0143131427.Subject(s): Bonnet, Marine -- Fiction | Verlaque, Antoine -- Fiction | Judges -- France -- Fiction | Women law teachers -- Fiction | Authors -- Crimes against -- Fiction | Ghost stories | Aix-en-Provence (France) -- Fiction | FICTION -- Crime | FICTION -- Mystery & Detective -- Traditional British | Detective and mystery fiction | Fiction | Mystery fiction | Detective and mystery fictionSummary: "Beguiling. Longworth evokes the pleasures of France in delicious detail--great wine, delicious meals, and fine company."--Publishers Weekly When a scandalous author moves to the outskirts of Aix-en-Provence, Verlaque and Bonnet are called in to investigate whether he's haunted by more than just his past, in this delightful new mystery from M.L. Longworth One hot summer night, Aix-en-Provence is aflutter with news that controversial author Valere Barbier, who once shared dinners with French presidents and all-night drinking bouts with rock stars, has moved into La Bastide Blanche, a grand house left empty for decades. But Valere's ideas of a peaceful retirement are quickly dashed. Rambunctious neighborhood children, a fast-talking gossip of a housekeeper, and a rival novelist filter through the home at all hours of the day--and by night there are unseen visitors with more sinister intentions. While Antoine Verlaque investigates Valere's sordid history, his wife and partner, Marine Bonnet, questions why the estate was abandoned in the first place--and what they both find raises more questions than answers. Is Valere imagining the ethereal cries that fill the bastide at night? Is he losing his mind? Or have these ghosts returned from Valere's checkered past to haunt him?"-- Provided by publisher.
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

One hot summer night, Aix-en-Provence is aflutter with news that controversial author Valere Barbier, who once shared dinners with French presidents and all-night drinking bouts with rock stars, has moved into La Bastide Blanche, a grand house left empty for decades. But Valere's ideas of a peaceful retirement are quickly dashed. Rambunctious neighbourhood children, a fast-talking gossip of a housekeeper, and a rival novelist filter through the home at all hours of the day - and by night there are unseen visitors with more sinister intentions.

"Beguiling. Longworth evokes the pleasures of France in delicious detail--great wine, delicious meals, and fine company."--Publishers Weekly When a scandalous author moves to the outskirts of Aix-en-Provence, Verlaque and Bonnet are called in to investigate whether he's haunted by more than just his past, in this delightful new mystery from M.L. Longworth One hot summer night, Aix-en-Provence is aflutter with news that controversial author Valere Barbier, who once shared dinners with French presidents and all-night drinking bouts with rock stars, has moved into La Bastide Blanche, a grand house left empty for decades. But Valere's ideas of a peaceful retirement are quickly dashed. Rambunctious neighborhood children, a fast-talking gossip of a housekeeper, and a rival novelist filter through the home at all hours of the day--and by night there are unseen visitors with more sinister intentions. While Antoine Verlaque investigates Valere's sordid history, his wife and partner, Marine Bonnet, questions why the estate was abandoned in the first place--and what they both find raises more questions than answers. Is Valere imagining the ethereal cries that fill the bastide at night? Is he losing his mind? Or have these ghosts returned from Valere's checkered past to haunt him?"-- Provided by publisher.

Excerpt provided by Syndetics

<opt> <anon I1="BLANK" I2="BLANK">Chapter One New York City, September 22, 2010 J ustin Wong grew up in New York City, but he had never walked its streets as quickly, nor with such intent, as he did that afternoon. He felt like he could fly. It had only been seven years since he graduated from the Liberal Studies department of NYU, and here he was, working at a major publishing house-even if he was a lowly associate editor-and about to meet one of the most famous authors in the world. Prix Goncourt 1982. Voted into France's LZgion d'honneur in 1986. Short-listed for a Nobel in 1987. Millions of sales and translated into forty-two languages. Justin stopped to catch his breath, with his hands on his hips and bending over slightly. Don't blow it, he told himself. You have to get this deal tonight. Maybe then Mom and Dad will forgive you for not studying medicine. He straightened up and looked at his reflection in a design shop's window. Average height, slim, jet-black hair freshly cut, and new clothes purchased specially for that evening (chinos, a pressed white cotton shirt, and for added flair a blue-and-green-checkered waistcoat and blue brogues that were too expensive even on sale). Ready. He turned at the Flatiron, and then slowed down as he got closer to East Twentieth Street. He knew this neighborhood well; he and a few buddies used to go to a cheap jazz club nearby. Not only his boss but also the publisher had met with Justin to decide on the evening's venue. They chose a restaurant famous for its food and extensive French wine cellar. The writer was known for his love of wines and cigars. Justin liked both, but that wasn't why he had been chosen for this meeting. The editor in chief or publisher could have easily gone instead. Justin had been singled out by the great writer himself, whose lawyer had written a letter to New York on very old-fashioned embossed letterhead. Justin walked slowly now-he was early-with a huge smile plastered on his face as he recalled part of the letter for the millionth time: "My client, Valre Barbier, would like to meet with Mr. Justin Wong, an employee of your esteemed publishing house. M Barbier will be in New York for three days in September. Merci beaucoup. Ma"tre Guillaume Matton, 15 avenue Hoche, 75008, Paris." The letter surprised Justin as much as it did the publisher, who immediately called Justin into her office (They had never met; it was a big company). "Did you call Barbier's lawyer, this Ma"tre Matton person?" she hollered, pacing the room. "How did he get your name? You can't just contact world-renowned authors without your boss's consent!" She was red in the face, almost as red as the Chanel jacket she wore. Justin looked at the floor, hiding his grin. He always laughed when he was terrified. He sat down in a leather chair, resting his sweating palms on his thighs. There had to be an explanation. Think. What connected him to this French writer? He had spent a year at NYU's Paris campus, but he never even read Valre Barbier's works while he was there. He had been too busy chasing French girls. Besides, Barbier had switched genres by then, infuriating his critics but gaining even more readers. Clothilde had thought it a wild joke. "It looks so good on us!" she laughed over beers in the Latin Quarter. "We French are such snobs! And Valre Barbier has shoved it back in our Gallic faces!" She reached over and rubbed Justin's cheek-that part he remembered vividly. "You are such a cute little New Yorker!" she said. "So cute I am going to take you back to my flat tonight!" "Clothilde," he said aloud. "What?" the publisher asked. "Who is Clothilde?" "Clothilde is a French girl I met while studying in Paris," Justin began to explain. It was the only connection he could think of. "She was writing a thesis on Barbier." "So what?" the published lashed out. "A lot of people have-at least until Barbier went off the rails." "Clothilde actually met him and did some secretarial work for him. And she sent me a weird e-mail a few days ago. I didn't understand-" "Read it to me." Justin pulled out his cell phone and scrolled down until he found the e-mail. He began reading, omitting the sexual banter at the beginning. " 'Justin, chZri, you will soon need to brush up on your knowledge of French wine. Your career may depend upon it. Bisous!' " The publisher stopped pacing. "That's Barbier all right. He once quizzed three separate publishers about wine before deciding which one to go with." She looked at her young editor. "Do you know French wines? I don't drink." Justin nodded. She looked at her watch. "It's evening now in Paris. Text or e-mail this Clothilde person. Ask her what's going on." Justin ran through his contact list, amazed that he still had Clothilde's cell number. He sent her a text, and while they waited, he cruised his Facebook page and saw that he and Clothilde were friends. She could have easily seen his employment status. She rarely posted photos or news, nor did he, but he read her latest status. She now worked for Canal Plus, one of the big French television and film companies. That didn't surprise him. In minutes his cell phone beeped. The publisher, who had been looking out at the Hudson River from her eleventh-floor window, swung around. Justin read Clothilde's text, again omitting the sexual innuendo: " 'I'm still in contact with Valre Barbier, cher Justin. Ran into him the other day at work, and we had some mojitos together. Imagine! Mojitos avec Barbier! Sounds like a film title, n'est-ce pas? He told me he is unhappy with his publisher-a big competitor of yours-and I gave him your name. He wants to write another book, an autobiography! Voil^! I told him you love France.' " Justin paused and said, "True . . . and I love his new books," then looked at the publisher and shook his head, grimacing. He silently finished reading the text: "La vie est belle. Ciao, darling! Trop cuuute!" The publisher meanwhile sat down and folded her hands on her desk. "Well, that's that," she said. "Who's to argue with the Great Man?" To Justin's delight, she gave him permission to proceed. He got up and shook her hand, thanking her. She returned his handshake and smiled. "I was silly as an undergraduate." Justin looked at her, perplexed. "I, too, did a year in Paris, but I didn't have a love affair." Justin was still grinning when he got to the restaurant. He looked at his watch-ten minutes early-opened the heavy glass door, and walked in. His publisher had booked the quietest table possible. Justin introduced himself to the hostess and followed her long legs as she led him through the nearly empty restaurant, to a table in its own snug room. The walls were painted a golden hue, the lighting was subdued, and wine bottles in wooden niches ran, floor to ceiling, around three sides of the room. It bothered Justin that the room wasn't climate controlled, but perhaps these were cheap wines or bottles that sold easily. "There's a curtain, if you need more privacy," the hostess said, pulling lightly at the beige velvet drapes on either side of the room's entrance. "Thank you," Justin said. "We'll leave them open until my, um, acquaintance arrives." He had almost called Valre Barbier his friend. Too much hyperactive Clothilde influence. Trop cuuute! "He's elderly, kind of. Sixtysomething. With thick white hair and a French accent." The hostess nodded. "Would you like to drink something while you're waiting?" "Water, please." Justin coughed, realizing how nervous he was. "Sparkling." May as well go all out, he thought. It's my first expense-account dinner. "Forget the sparkling water," an accented voice sounded from behind the hostess. "Bring two glasses of your house champagne." Justin quickly stood up, and the hostess coolly nodded to the Frenchman and walked away. "The house champagne will be good, non?" Valre Barbier asked in perfect but accented English. "Oui," Justin said, coughing again. "Il est trs bon." "We can speak English," Barbier said. "I lived in New York for five years, to escape the French press after my infamous genre switch." He smiled. "How do you know that the house champagne is good?" "I looked up the wine list before coming. It's Drappier." "Excellent!" Valre said. "You've done your . . . devoirs!" "Homework. Yes, I hope so. Please, have a seat." Valre Barbier sat down across from the editor. He was taken aback by his youth, but, then, Clothilde had said Justin Wong was a friend, so of course they must be roughly the same age. Almost thirty. Valre realized that he himself had done much by that age. "I like people over eighty and under thirty. One of my best friends in Aix-en-Provence is eleven years old. The ages in between are full of la merde! How old are you?" "I'm twenty-nine," Justin said. "One year away from becoming une merde." Valre slapped the table. "fnorme! Quel garon!" Justin smiled, wondering if the author had been drinking before he came. But it didn't matter. The hostess returned with two flutes of champagne. Valre reached over and swiftly plucked them from the platter. "Merci beaucoup!" "Tell me, which of my books is your favorite?" Valre asked, lifting his flute to Justin's and giving it a strong tap. "SantZ!" "Well," Justin began. "When I found out we were going to meet, I started reading An Honorable Man." Valre leaned forward. "And are you finished?" "Halfway." "fnorme, ce garon. You won't lie and say that you love all my books?" "No," Justin replied. Valre took a big gulp of champagne. "So why did you start with that one?" "It was your first, and you wrote it when you were my age. Twenty-nine. Before you-" "Before I became a shithead!" Valre yelled. Justin smiled awkwardly; that wasn't the way he had intended to finish the sentence. "Let's get down to business," he said. "NZgociations? DZj^?" Justin laughed. "No, M Barbier. Let's look at tonight's menu and wine list." Justin was careful not to argue too much about the wine. He was there to try to sign Valre Barbier as an author, not to show off his own knowledge. He had asked for the market list instead of the impressively thick reserve list, not wanting to spend all of the publishing houseÕs money. That was the way he had been raised. But he also surmised that one should be able to find a great wine at a reasonable price in such a good restaurant. He shared this second line of reasoning with Barbier, who was impressed and agreed. Valre silently thought that any other editor would have chosen from the reserve list. They agreed on a burgundy, a few years old, from Puligny-Montrachet. "We're showing off," Valre said. "Even if the price is good, eh?" "I know," Justin agreed. "But I've never had it." Valre laughed. The waiter, a young man with freckles and dark-red hair, walked in and announced the amuse-bouche, "Peekytoe crab in a cucumber roll," placing dishes in front of each diner, "with smoked corn chowder and a yellow-tomato sorbet with balsamic vinegar." "Merci," Valre said as the waiter left. He leaned over to Justin and asked, "What is this peekytoe crab?" "It's all the rage in New York right now. It's just an Atlantic crab whose legs curve inward." Valre raised an eyebrow and said, "You seem to know a lot about food and wine. When I was your age, my books were selling, but I was still counting my centimes." Justin smiled. "I like to read foodie magazines. But always on a full stomach." Valre laughed, selected a spoon, and dipped it into the tomato sorbet. "Bon appZtit." "Same to you," Justin said. "I love the look of this sorbet. It's like egg yolk." "I was just thinking the same thing," Valre said. "It could almost be zabaglione. Very imaginative . . ." Justin set down his spoon when he had finished and looked at Barbier. "I've read a lot about your life, but I have questions." Valre set his own cutlery down and looked at the young man. "Go on." Justin saw something in the writer's eyes change. Up to now he had been a bon vivant, a man without a worry in the world. All of a sudden he looked older and more pensive. His large brown eyes narrowed, and a few wrinkles appeared on his forehead. Justin said, "This ch%teau you bought in Aix-en-Provence-" "Bastide," Valre corrected. "La Bastide Blanche." "Right. I've read a few articles about the fire and everything that happened this summer. I became a little obsessed by it." "Tell me what you know," Valre said. "Well, that the bastide burned down, and, no offense, that some people accused you-though that was never proven." "No, it wasn't proven." "But you were there when it happened." Valre nodded and began eating. "I can't remember much from that night," he said. "They tell me I was yelling something about Agathe-" "Your late wife." "Right," Valre replied. "There was a time when Agathe was more famous than me. But only very briefly. Do you know anything about her?" "Well," Justin began, "I know she was an artist, that you guys were married a long time, and that she died in 1988." He resisted using the word "mysteriously" after "died." Valre smiled and picked up his wineglass. "Do you believe in ghosts, Justin?" Was Barbier talking about Agathe? Justin rested his chin on his folded hands and tried to think of an honest reply that would also get Barbier talking. He now remembered reading that Barbier claimed the house was haunted on the night of the fire. "Yes. Yes I do," he answered. "I believe the dead prance around old buildings at night because they think they are still living there. When I was in high school we had to memorize a poem. I chose Shelley. All I can remember now is 'When night makes a weird sound of its own stillness.'" "Night's weird sounds . . . I couldn't sleep at La Bastide," Valre said, sighing. "It was their busy time." Justin asked, "Their busy time?" "It's a long story," Valre said, draining his champagne. "But we have all night. If I'm going to write one last book, my potential editor needs to hear, and believe in, my story. Are you up for it?" "Oui, monsieur." Chapter Two New York City, September 22, 2010 Valre Begins His Story A s its name implies, La Bastide Blanche had a stucco facade, painted white but cracked and peeling by the time I bought it. The house was perfectly symmetrical, as bastides usually are: a wooden front door-three feet across-in the center, flanked on each side by two tall windows. Above that were two windows in the same configuration, and over the front door another window, bigger than the others, with a Juliet balcony. A large B was woven into the balcony's wrought-iron railing. The third story, not as tall as the other two, allowed room for five bull's-eye windows, ovals set on their side rather than vertically. The red-tiled roof-obligatory in Provence-was a patchwork of new and old tiles, replaced over the centuries, each one a different shade of red, orange, and even yellow. Sometime in the future, I imagined, I would restucco the crumbling facade and paint it yellow; the shutters, a faded red, would be olive green. Excerpted from The Secrets of the Bastide Blanche by M. L. Longworth All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.</anon> </opt>

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Library Journal Review

Life in Aix-en-Provence gets a little more interesting when infamous author Valère Barbier buys the Bastide Blanche, a grand estate that has sat empty for years. Barbier's desire for a quiet life is dashed by unexpected visitors and voices that haunt him in the night. When he isn't the only one to have terrifying encounters in the bastide, Judge Antoine -Verlaque begins to dig into Barbier's history for answers while his wife looks into rumors that the early owners of the bastide were hiding some shocking secrets. Is someone from Barbier's past out to get him, or is he simply a convenient target for ghosts? VERDICT Longworth (The Curse of La Fontaine) once again transports readers to the South of France, peppering the story with sensory details that bring the setting to life. Antoine and wife Marine are as delightful as ever, and the compelling mystery keeps you wanting more.-Julie Ciccarelli, Tacoma P.L. © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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