Death in Pont Aven – Jean-Luc Bannalec – Review

Hesperus Press

Translated by Sorcha McDonagh


“A baffling murder in an idyllic French seaside village, a tangle of family secrets and a puzzling mystery await Commissaire Dupin in this captivating whodunit thriller.

Commissaire Georges Dupin, a cantankerous, Parisian-born caffeine junkie is dragged from his morning croissants and coffee to the scene of a curious murder. The local village of Pont-Aven – a sleepy community by the sea where everyone knows one other and nothing much seems to happen – is in shock. The manager at the Central Hotel has come downstairs that morning to find ninety-one-year-old owner Pierre-Louis Pennec dead on the restaurant floor.

Dupin and his team identify five principal suspects, including a rising political star, a longtime friend of the victim and a wealthy art historian. Further incidents – first a break-in, then another death – only compound the mystery. As Commissaire Dupin delves further and further into the lives of the victim and the suspects, he uncovers a web of secrecy and silence that belies the village’s idyllic image. “

3.5 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Georges Dupin has been Commissaire of Concarneau, Brittany for a few years, transferred from Paris after a ‘disagreement’ with his superiors. Not one to bow to authority, he never the less has grown to love his new surroundings, though even now is not considered a local by the Bretons he lives and works with.

One morning he is called to the Central Hotel in Pont Aven, a picturesque seaside village. There he finds 91 year old owner Pierre-Louis Pennec stabbed to death. At first Dupin and his colleagues Le Ber and Labat are puzzled as to why anyone would want to kill Pennec. They soon begin to suspect that there was more to Pennec and the history of the Central Hotel than meets the eye. They are met with secrets that stretch back over the years. Their investigation is compounded when there is a break-in in the hotel and another mysterious death.

This is the first outing for Commissaire Dupin and I look forward to reading more of his investigations. He has his own investigative style, scribbling in his notebook, asking seemingly unconnected questions and often keeping Le Ber and Labat out of the loop, much to their obvious annoyance. I hope in future books the relationship between Dupin, Le Ber, Labat and Dupin’s secretary Nolwenn develop as I’d like to see more of these characters, especially Nolwenn, who seems to know how to keep the Commissiare in line. Clever use was made of the location and the artistic history surrounding Pont Aven. I always like a novel that is set in a seemingly beautiful, peaceful setting. There is an interesting juxtaposition of the quaint sea-side resort and the secrets and lies underneath the surface.

The investigation unfolds at a gentle pace, the break in and second death adding clues to the motive for the murder and the identity of the killer. Whilst all this i son going Dupin also appears to set out on the romantic path, which will be hopefully continue and be interesting to see develop over the next few books.

All in all an enjoyable, gently paced murder mystery.

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