Tuesday, March 3, 2020
Books: "Death In Avignon" By Serena Kent
Death In Avignon
By Serena Kent
Harper Paperbacks; 352 pages; $16.99; available March 3
Death In Avignon - the second book of the Penelope Kite series and a follow up to the acclaimed Death In Provence - has the amateur sleuth scrambling to solve the murder of an expat artist.
After an eventful first few months in Provence, it seems Penelope has settled into her delightful new life, complete with a gorgeous love interest in the Mayor of St. Merlot. When the couple attend a glamorous gallery opening, Penelope's biggest worry is embarrassing herself in front of her date.
However, evening takes a horrifying turn when a controversial British painter, Ronald Doncaster, chokes to death on an almond-stuffed olive, which is later revealed to have been poisoned.
Kent writes, "Penelope was still processing this news as she approached the cave. Cardboard boxes of wine were stacked floor to ceiling and on wooden pallets on the floor. A couple of men in blue boilersuits were chatting loudly in the far corner.
"As she went in, she caught the words 'mort' and 'artiste.' It had been a good idea to come here. The demise of Don Doncaster was clearly the topic du jour. Penelope strained to keep up with the torrent of words in the broad Provencal accent in which 'vin' was pronounced 'veng' and 'maison' was 'maiseng.' She edged closer and pretended to be absorbed in examining her receipt.
"Disappointingly, there was not much to overhear that she didn't already know. In fact, she probably knew more than they did. The rumour mill had already converted the gallery opening in Avignon into a studio in Menerbes, and Don's collapse into a discovery of him slumped and blue in the face at the easel. The men made no mention of his wife, or ex-wife.
"They were so busy swapping theories that neither registered her arrival. She listened as one man suggested that the Russian mafia had come up from Nice and Cannes to execute him, though for what crime other than that against Art itself, Penelope could not imagine. The other countered by invoking his public persona as a well-known British drunk and would-be Lothario.
"'He had 'parties' at his house, if you know what I mean. It was well known locally,' said the Menerbes studio theorist. 'It's always the way with these rich foreigners. they wouldn't behave like that in their own country,' replied the other.
"Blimey, thought Penelope, that's a bit of a sweeping generalization. Out of respect for the dead, she coughed and waved her proof of purchase.
"One of the men came over and dealt with her order, finding the right wines and carrying the boxes to her car. He could not have been more helpful, even though he must have noticed the British plates on the Range Rover."
Since Penelope has been reluctantly drawn into the murder investigation, she discovers that any number of jealous lovers and scheming rivals could be involved.
With dashing art dealers to charm, patisseries to resist, and her own friends under suspicion, Penelope will need to draw upon all her sleuthing talents to uncover the truth.
About the Author: Serena Kent is the nom de plume of Deborah Lawrenson and her husband Robert Rees. They met at Cambridge University and pursued completely different careers, she in journalism and fiction; he in banking and music. They live in a house full of books in England, and an old hamlet in Provence which is also in dire need of more bookshelves.
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