Thursday, March 11, 2010

Death in the Truffle Wood by Pierre Magnan

Title: Death in the Truffle Wood
Author: Pierre Magnan
Translated from the French: Patricia Clancy
ISBN: 9780312367190, Thomas Dunne Books, 2005
Original Publication Date: 1978
Genre: Police Procedural, #1 Commissaire Laviolette mystery
Rating: B+

First Line: "Come on Roseline!"

Five young people have disappeared in the vicinity of Banon in Provence. When Commissaire Laviolette comes to investigate, villager Alyre Morelon immediately demands that the police officer looks into a recent incident when someone tried to kill his Roseline, the best truffle-sniffing pig in the entire area.

Laviolette has been sent to Banon because there's nothing remarkable about his appearance and he can blend in anywhere. Well... that's what he tells people. What he's not telling anyone is that his unremarkable visage hides a very observant and intelligent man. When Laviolette obliges Morelon and looks into the incident concerning the pig, he stumbles across something that ties right into the missing persons case he is investigating.

Originally published in 1978, some of you young whippersnappers who read Death in the Truffle Wood may miss your computers and cell phones, but this old fogey found their absence refreshing. (It is nice to remember the "good old days" once in a while when detecting didn't seem to rely on gizmos.) Magnan's sense of pacing is sure, and his characterizations show flashes of brilliance. The various plot lines of injured pig, missing young people, heirs to fortunes and philandering spouses were woven together into an intriguing mystery.

As much as I enjoyed the mystery, it was Magnan's humor and his depiction of the culture of Provence and its people that really won me over. The "forensic lads from Criminal Records" who loved to race between Marseilles and Banon, the relationship between Roseline and her owner Alyre, the description of a local wedding and the behavior of the guests... these are only three instances that made me laugh and made me feel as though I was getting a feel for the real Provence.

Combine all that with a very ordinary-looking and extraordinarily observant policeman, and I find myself with a new and delightful mystery series to continue reading. C'est magnifique!

[Source: Purchased from Bookcloseouts.]


  1. Magnan is a wonderful writer in both the crime genre and other. I note that you particularly enjoyed his depiction of Provence, and so it is I would urge you, if you have not already, to read his The Murdered House -- a great and multiple award-winning crime novel -- and its sequel, Beyond the Grave. These will transport you to Provence of a century ago and keep you there for quite a while. Marvellous.

  2. I think I might welcome a setting where cell phones and computers are non-existent - especially if that setting is Provence, France.

    This sounds delightful and I am quite sure I would never have found the title on my own. Thanks for the great review!

  3. I was also charmed by the characters and environment. And how refreshing to have a truffle pig in the role of a primadonna.

  4. This sounds great! I love "vintage" mysteries and one set in France is enormously appealing. I'm copying this post to remember.

  5. Philip-- I have both those books on my wish list, and I hope to get them soon. Thanks so much for stopping by and talking mysteries with me!

    Molly-- You're very welcome!

    Dorte-- Yes...Roseline was the perfect porcine primadonna!

    RCR-- I hope you have a chance to read the book!

  6. I ordered it immediately -- and the sequel. I clicked through to amazon from your blog, so maybe you will get amazon associate credit???? I hope so.

  7. RCR-- I'm tickled that you clicked through from my blog. I'm not an associate of anything, however, so it doesn't matter. I wouldn't earn enough money to make it worth my while! LOL


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