From the very start, I was gripped by this novel. I have to confess that I thought I probably would be, as I’m a huge fan of Aaron Paul Lazar. And this wonderful author didn’t let me down.

Gus and his wife Camille are on a long-awaited and much-needed holiday. But, as is so true when you’re leaving family members behind, they’re torn. They need this break but they miss home too. This is just one of the lovely touches in this book. As with the other novels in this series, there is such a warm domestic background.  In fact warmth is what characterises the book: bad things happen, but there is security and love and loyalty in the background. Gus himself is such a warm likeable character. People can’t help opening up to him, and he can’t help getting involved. Camille is far more than a token sidekick. She’s a strong character, and has a strong role to play in this exciting mystery.

When a car crashes onto the beach close to him, Gus is drawn into a mystery concerning two feuding families. One is dysfunctional in the extreme whilst the other is very close but challenged. Sinister events pull Gus into thrilling events that have their roots in the eighteenth century. We have pirates and lost treasure alongside very modern problems, such a single mum struggling to make a living and also trying to save her baby’s father from the abuse he appears to be suffering at home.

The title Murder on the Brewster Flats is a clever one as there are actually two we learn about – one in the past, connected to the pirate element, and a modern one that puts several other characters in immediate danger. Also clever, there’s a crossover element: Gus and Camille encounter Jack and Scout Remington from the Paines Creek Beach series. It works so well!

This is an exciting and polished novel which you can’t put down. 

Chef Maurice and a Spot of Truffle by J.A. Lang is a very entertaining cozy mystery featuring Chef Maurice, whose large and very French moustache deserves its own postcode, and his friend and restaurant critic, Arthur Wordington-Smythe. It makes for a very appetising start to a series.
The scene is a small Cotswolds town of Beakley, which is lucky enough to have Maurice’s restaurant, Le Cochon Rouge, in it. I say ‘lucky’ because all the food he prepares sounds wonderful! Maurice is clearly extremely dedicated to his craft. So when Ollie, his fresh mushroom supplier, winds up dead this is not something our headstrong French chef will stand for. He immediately starts to investigate in his own somewhat eccentric way and makes miserable the lives of many of the locals, and especially that of PC Lucy. It’s not long before it seems that valuable and unusual English truffle are involved somewhere and so Maurice acquires Hamilton, a little pig with a lot of personality, from the local animal rescue centre. Hamilton’s sharp sense of smell in tracking down truffles comes in handy, but also gets him and his owner into trouble.
This is a quirky mystery with a clever plot and a host of larger-than-life characters. There’s a lot of very witty writing and it’s the sort of book that constantly has you chuckling as you read. It’s delightful and absorbing, and I for one will definitely be following the rest of Chef Maurice’s adventures.

This is a murder mystery that involves a busy but secluded religious commune, New Life, headed by Father Ambrose. A trash bag containing the mutilated remains of a young girl is thrown onto their property, thus forcing the community to be dragged into the real world it tries hard to avoid as the murder is investigated.

The book begins very well and this author’s forte is in narrative writing. However, it rapidly gets bogged down with a lot of tedious and repetitive dialogue. Too often characters are telling, and retelling, each other things where it would be far more efficient if the author just told us, the readers, once. There are too many phone calls – two long ones in one chapter alone. Phone calls are notoriously difficult to portray in any novel – should we hear one side only, both sides, how much small talk need there be, and so on – and it’s best to avoid them if possible. Luckily these days we can have brief texts or emails to do their job, because as in this book, they do jar and slow the pace.

The plot is interesting and the descriptive writing generally excellent, but elsewhere the quality is much lower. The book is written in the third person but the author also uses, rather inconsistently, first person techniques such as direct thoughts. These rapidly become intrusive since you start to wonder why particular paragraphs are presented as his thoughts whereas others aren’t. There’s too much inconsistency. The majority of the characters aren’t well developed and remain shadowy.

There’s much to admire but generally I found this book disappointing after such a good start.


This is an office-based cozy mystery, which, it has to be said, makes a welcome change from the plethora of bakery-based ones! It’s set in Bostoff Securities where Janet Maple, our heroine, has just been given a job by long-time but rather controlling friend Lisa. Having worked in the DA’s office, Janet has a nose for intrigue and cover-ups. So she quickly becomes alarmed when she notices that things, such as the complicated company structures,  don’t seem to add up and starts to do a bit of digging. Janet finds herself in the awkward situation of suspecting her friend and boss guilty of wrong-doing. She’s not the only one. Her apparently nerdy work colleague Dean (the alias for Dennis Walker, an undercover agent) is on the case too and the pair find themselves working together, as well as becoming increasingly attracted to each other.

The author has a very clear, concise, polished style that makes for enjoyable reading. The characters are nicely rounded  and I suspect the major ones will develop further as the series progresses. The plot is clever and it’s interesting to get an insight into how a securities firm works. All in all, a different and enjoyable cozy, although it has to be said that Baxter the dog could do with being let out a lot more often!

I received a free copy of this book from the author, but this is a voluntary review.

You know, this book really works! I was a little worried to start with that it wouldn’t, since it quickly emerges that there’s a magical paranormal element, and yet the book has such down-to-earth characters and a plot that has financial concerns at its core. Can such prosaic realism and such imaginative make-believe act in harmony? With this author, most definitely.

Frank, the heir to the Jamieson ice cream fortune, disappears together with his trust fund leaving his wife, Christy, and his daughter, Noelle, at the mercy of Frank’s trustees. Their marriage wasn’t successful but Christy is genuinely worried about her husband and knows this behaviour is out of character. However, everyone else seems to accept it all at face value. She is desperate to find him.

Christy and Noelle have to make big economies and so move to a smaller house, next door to the Armstrongs. Quinn Armstrong, a journalist, at first pursues Christy for a story since there are suspicions she’s involved in the money’s disappearance. To begin with she refuses to have anything to do with him, but soon she needs his help. In return for a scoop on Frank, he agrees to help her. More assistance comes from Stormy, Christy’s cat, who ends up on Quinn’s doorstep.

There is a lot for Christy and Quinn to deal with, not least the growing attraction between them. It all makes for a very enjoyable and innovative mystery.

My only quibble is with the title. There are an awful lot of books with the same title. I’ve mentioned this before in reviews, but it is vital for a book to be instantly findable. A distinctive, unique title is a must!

This is a really enjoyable, compact little cozy mystery. It has all the main ingredients we like to see. First up we have a smart, very likeable heroine, Alyssa Sanders, who has her own bakery business, a hunky cop boyfriend, a slightly ditzy assistant and a pair of Yorkies called Buttercream and Cinnamon. Then we have the offstage murder of a nice old lady, Violet, which Alyssa decides to investigate since Violet was a good customer. Alyssa always listens to local gossip so she knows a lot about what’s going on and knows this could come in useful. Cameron, the boyfriend, obviously enough doesn’t want her getting involved. However, when Alyssa suddenly becomes the chief suspect then not even he can keep her out of things.
And then of course we have more going on than just a bit of sleuthing. Added to the clever mystery, with its twists and turns, Alyssa and Cameron are having a bit of a bumpy ride. They’ve been together two years but Cameron doesn’t want to commit himself to anything permanent, and what’s more, he’s looking at moving to the city. He’s sure Alyssa will enjoy life there. Alyssa feels like he hardly knows her. So she has a lot of other things on her plate besides being suspected of being a murderer.
The author’s style is delightful and sure, and this is a very poised and perky novella. It has a super cover and is generally very professionally presented. A little iced-gem of book!

Ironically, having to rush down to Bordeaux due to a family crisis has made me late taking part in the France Book Tours virtual tour for the latest in the Winemaker Detective series, in which Bordeaux has previously featured. Events were entirely beyond my control but here I am now, a little late and still stressed to the eyeballs, but delighted to be sharing this lovely book with you.

Requiem in Yquem sees Benjamin Cooker and assistant Virgile back in action in this newest wine-centred cozy mystery. This time we are in Sauternes region, where a brutal murder of an elderly couple has shattered the locality. Virgile has some history in the area, which comes in handy, and this together with a wine connection and Benjamin’s tenacity soon has them on the trail of the killer.

As always with this series, there is plenty of good food and wine to relieve the dramatic tension, and also superb descriptive writing, and our two imperfect heroes with their problems and quirks keep these stories realistic and totally absorbing.

Here’s an atmospheric excerpt so you can see for yourself just how enjoyable the writing of Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noel Balen (pictured above) is.

From Requiem in Yprem

It was a rustic bed. Resting on a pine frame, the thin mattress had served for more than sleep. Lovers had coupled in the night here, and children had been birthed in white-hot pain. Under the goose-down comforter, the sheets were heavy and rough. A crucifix above the bed attested to a faith filled with incense and rosary beads. A frond secured behind it awaited Ash Wednesday, when it would be reduced to gray dust—a reminder of mortality.

An antique clock with a brass pendulum ruled over the dreary room, which was steeped in darkness day and night. Éléonore and René Lacombe were too discreet to let the sun reveal their furrowed faces, skeletal torsos, and arthritic joints. The couple anticipated death with resignation mingled with apprehension.

On this late-autumn morning, the two old creatures were lying side by side, with waxy faces, half-closed eyes, gaping mouths, and limp, fleshless arms. Éléonore and René looked like marionettes abandoned by a puppeteer who had rushed offstage. Except for the blood.

The bullets had been carefully aimed. Had Éléonore and René awakened? Had they seen the murderer’s face? Clearly, there hadn’t been enough time to switch on the lamp or let out a word or a cry. And certainly not enough to grab the shotgun below the bed, which René hadn’t used since he stopped pigeon hunting five years before. No, the scenario had unfolded without a hitch. No mess in the house. No closets forced open or drawers rifled through. The covers were even pulled up, as if to keep the victims from getting cold before moving on to the afterlife.

Was it possible that someone was after the couple’s modest possessions? A postal employee’s pension, combined with the meager savings of a seamstress, was hardly enough to motivate a crime like this.

They kept no wads of euros tucked beneath their mattress. The small savings they had managed to accumulate was safely deposited at a bank in Preignac, a commonplace town in the Sauternes appellation of southwestern France. The Lacombes’ nest egg was available for withdrawal if anything happened. But nothing ever happened. Theirs was a humdrum life permeated with silence, small grimaces, groans, and occasional laughter. Some bickering, of course, but nothing serious.

Éléonore and René had sometimes joked that they would be inseparable even in death. And when the first officer on the scene carefully pulled down the covers, it was confirmed. Éléonore and René were holding hands.

Here’s your chance to win a copy of this very entertaining mystery that really does keep you guessing right up to the end.



Jean-Pierre ALAUX and Noël BALEN

on Tour

September 11-22



Requiem in Yquem


Release date: September 12, 2017
at Le French Book

215 pages

ISBN: 9781943998104

Website | Goodreads


The intricate taste of greed and remorse.
The “addictive” Winemaker Detective series returns with a French mystery set in Sauternes, home of one of the world’s finest dessert wines, Yquem, known to some as liquid gold.
In the mist-covered hills of Sauternes, where the wine is luscious and the landscape beguiling, the brutal murder of an elderly couple intrigues the wine expert Benjamin Cooker and awakens memories for his dashing assistant Virgile Lanssien. Drawn into the investigation, the two journey through the storied Sauternes countryside, where the Château d’Yquem has reigned for centuries. Will the murder go unexplained and the killer remain free? The Winemaker Detective’s discernment and incessant curiosity pushes investigators to look deeper, while Virgile rekindles memories of his days at school and questions the meaning of his life.
In another satisfying wine novel with a French flair, authors Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen give readers a perfectly intoxicating combination French wine, gourmet meals, and mystery in the gloriously described Sauternes wine region with all the scenery, scents, and sounds of France. This light, fun mystery combines amateur sleuths, food, and wine in a wonderfully French mystery novel that doubles as a travel guide.
It is a new kind read on the international mystery and crime scene: a pitch-perfect, wine-infused, French-style cozy mystery.



©David Nakache


Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen,
the authors of the Winemaker Detective series
are epicures.
Jean-Pierre Alaux is a magazine, radio and TV journalist
when he is not writing novels in southwestern France. |
He is the grandson of a winemaker
and exhibits a real passion for wine and winemaking.
For him, there is no greater common denominator than wine.
He gets a sparkle in his eye when he talks about the Winemaker Detective mystery series,
which he coauthors with Noël Balen.
Noël lives in Paris, where he shares his time between writing,
making records, and lecturing on music.
He plays bass, is a music critic,
and has authored a number of books about musicians
in addition to his prolific novel and short-story writing.

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Sally Pane studied French at State University of New York Oswego and the Sorbonne before receiving her Masters Degree in French Literature from the University of Colorado where she wrote Camus and the Americas: A Thematic Analysis of Three Works Based on His Journaux de Voyage. Her career includes more than twenty years of translating and teaching French and Italian at Berlitz and at University of Colorado Boulder. She has worked in scientific, legal and literary translation; her literary translations include Operatic Arias; Singers Edition, and Reality and the Untheorizable by Clément Rosset, along with a number of titles in the Winemaker Detective series. She also served as the interpreter for the government cabinet of Rwanda and translated for Dian Fossey’s Digit Fund. In addition to her passion for French, she has studied Italian at Colorado University, in Rome and in Siena. She lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband.




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Other genres, such as mismem and griplit, come and go in popularity, but cosy mysteries remain constantly popular. These require creativity, ingenuity and humour on the part of the author, which make for a winning formula for readings. You find some really excellent writing.

Dying for Dinner Rolls by Lois Lavrisa is no exception. This is a short, delightful read. Our heroine Cat works in the family organic food store. She’s recovering from the recent violent death of her father, but her supportive husband and lively children have kept her going. Also she’s making an effort to be there for her Korean mother, Yunni. When Lucy is found dead after nipping home to fetch dinner rolls for Cat and the other members of the Chubby Chicks Club, a group of friends who get together for pot luck suppers and chats, a chilling clue seems to link her death with Cat’s father’s. The police consider it to be a suicide but Cat is convinced otherwise. Annie Mae, the chubbiest of the chicks, joins Cat for a day’s eventful sleuthing which threatens to land them both in jail. Handsome cop José keeps a nervous eye on proceedings and rushes in to rescue the crimebusting pair when the difficult situations they get themselves into threaten to get out of control. They do get a little carried away at times! However, they also get the murderer, but Cat is still determined to track down her father’s killer, whatever the cost.

Once you start this novella it’s hard to put it down. The characters are quirky, diverse and fascinating. Cat is a lively, likeable heroine with strengths and flaws that make her so utterly identifiable with. Annie Mae, twenty years her senior and, by the sounds of it, twenty times her weight, makes for the perfect sidekick for her. The plot twists and turns, just as it should, and the result is a clever, original cosy that has you gasping in horror and chuckling in delight in equal measure. I highly recommend it, and I’m now off to read the next two books in the series.

Just a couple of tiny nitpicks – well, I am an editor! There were just a couple of typos, but that’s quite acceptable as the error-free book has yet to be published, and the cover is a little too cluttered. The image is clean and classy but the quote and the Chubby Chicks logo rather spoiled the overall effect for me.

I came across this book via Twitter (so take heart, indie authors, it does pay to Tweet regularly about your books!) and I’m so pleased I did. As a keen cyclist I was immediately attracted by the inclusion of ‘peloton’ in the title. Actually, I liked all of the catchy title with its alliteration, rhythm and assonance. The cover is also not a run-of-the-mill romcom cover, with quirky artwork and fancy italics for the typeface. This one is fresh and clear,and also intriguing. Why when we have ‘two’ in the title do we only have ‘one’ in the image? The hint is that this is a resourceful, independent heroine, who’s bound to be interesting. I had to read this book.

‘Peloton of Two’ is a light-hearted romantic comedy set mainly in rural France. Catherine Pringle, a journalist, has the chance to write her own column whilst cycling around France with her explorer boyfriend Nick. The tour will further her career, she hopes, and also improve her slightly shaky relationship with Nick. However, the tour gets off to a shaky start and most definitely does not go as planned. But all isn’t lost for our empathetic, well-meaning heroine. Life has a way of throwing up surprises.

We get to see a lot of France and human nature on the way, and there are many entertaining characters to meet. It’s a super read, well written and thoroughly entertaining.

Available at all the Amazons for Kindle and as a paperback.

I’m a big fan of Paulita Kincer’s novels, and I honestly think this is her best yet. It’s an exciting story that takes us from Florida to Paris and Marseilles as Sadie tries to find her runaway daughter, Scarlett.

Sadie is still healing after an unpleasant divorce and has been neglecting herself and devoting all her energies to her two girls, to try and keep their family life going. Conversely, although she is going through a complete nightmare of worry and helplessness, the experience is bringing her back to life. She teams up with Auguste, the father of the young man, Luc, that Scarlett has followed to Paris. This new partnership benefits them both.

There is such sharp attention to detail it keeps the reader riveted. All those little Frenchisms which, as a visitor to the country, hit you with such force. As an expat in France for ten years, I’ve stopped n noticing some of them, so as I read this book I had plenty of ‘oh yes, that’s so true!’ moments. A couple of examples are how the way of numbering floors is blocks of flats is uniquely French, and how there really is such a thing as ‘the art of French shrugging’.

The characters are so well portrayed. Sadie is in many ways a very typical fifty-year-old mum of growing up, if not quite grown up, children. She’s pretty au fait with social media, and she’s one step ahead of me in being able to store her plane ticket on her mobile phone. Auguste and the minor French characters we meet are so obviously and convincingly French. Scarlett is not quite every difficult teenage girl, because she takes things to the extreme in her flight abroad, but she exhibits many of the traits you associate with her age group. I particularly like the monotone which she reserves especially for her poor mum.

This is a wonderfully written story and it will keep you gripped from cover to cover. I’m already looking forward to Paulita Kincer’s next novel.

The book is available from all Amazon stores in paperback and ebook.