"Not since my first visit to Louise Penny's Three Pines, have I encountered a more beguiling fictional world than Susan Shea's Reigny-Sur-Cannes. With an engaging cast, the rare realistic depiction of a good, modern marriage, a sideways look at a budding mystery-writer, and a real head-scratcher of a murder plot, Dressed for Death in Burgundy is a box of delights!" -Catriona McPherson, award-winning author of the Dandy Gilver series
After finding herself mixed up in a murder investigation the previous Summer, Katherine Goff’s life simply has not been the same. Her husband has been in the US recording a new album, the Burgundy region locals are finally starting to see her as a real neighbor, and Katherine has even started helping out with “tourist” excursions. It seems she’s finally found her place in the small community of Reigny-sur-Canne.
But when Katherine stumbles across a body in the local museum during a tour, she finds herself caught up once again in a whirlwind of gossip and speculation. When the police zero in on her friend Pippa as a suspect, Pippa and Katherine team up to find the real killer and clear her name.
However, the more clues they discover, the more the real killer wants them off the trail. When Katherine and Pippa start receiving threats, they must decide what they are more afraid of—the police getting it wrong, or possibly becoming the killer’s next targets.
Find out what happens next in the second installment in the French countryside murder mystery series the New York Times calls “a pleasant getaway.”
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About the Author
SUSAN C. SHEA spent more than two decades as a non-profit executive before beginning her career as a mystery author. Susan is past-president of the northern California chapter of Sisters in Crime and secretary of the national SinC board, a member of MWA, and blogs on CriminalMinds. She is the author of the French Village Mysteries, including Love&Death in Burgundy, and the Dani O’Rourke mystery series. Susan lives in Marin County, California and travels to France as often as she can.
Read an Excerpt
Emile's new dog was barking again, a deep, rhythmic complaint that had as much to do with the presence of Katherine Goff's yellow cat sitting beyond the fence as it did with the dog's desire to be inside, away from the biting December wind. Katherine and Michael's two dogs, from the safety of their old stone house across the narrow road in Reigny-sur-Canne, deep in the Yonne region of Burgundy, had begun to bark in sympathy.
Katherine walked far enough along the driveway to confirm her suspicions. "Come on, cat," Katherine said, clapping her gloved hands together, "it's freezing out here, it's beginning to rain, and I have to get going."
Having considered the options, or perhaps because it was bored, the yellow cat allowed itself to be persuaded, and by the time Katherine opened the kitchen door, it was waiting, tail held high, to resume its rightful place on the threadbare upholstered chair in the corner of the living room.
For the thousandth time, Katherine argued in her head with Emile, the retired dentist, amateur musician, and pétanque court arbiter of Reigny-sur-Canne about his decision to buy a Rottweiler after last summer's tragedy. "Emile, it wasn't a crime wave."
But Emile was having none of it. He spoke darkly of the state of the world, of la belle France, of "foreigners," and of the resident family of thieves in Reigny, the latter a delicate topic with Katherine, who had taken one nimble-fingered member of the family under her wing. No, the only protection was to get a guard dog, one that would be loyal to his master's possessions and property at all times. Hence the arrival of a large, handsome, but unfriendly animal who had frightened Fideaux and Gracey so completely that they now resisted walking on leashes to the town's communal garbage collection corner since it went past Emile's newly fenced yard.
Katherine exchanged her damp parka for a heavier coat, pulled a knitted wool hat over her hair, and gave herself points for having taken the dogs out for a walk before it began to drizzle. She doled out breakfast for the animals, grabbed a slightly worn leather tote bag that had been a shockingly expensive twenty euros at a late-summer vide-grenier, one of the scores of town-wide attic sales that dotted the region in good weather, and locked the door as she left.
The old Citroën sat in the driveway but it was low on gas and she was afraid she'd run out if she used any getting over to Château de Bellegarde before she made it to the pump in Noyers. She couldn't seem to manage some of the simplest things on her own, embarrassing for a fifty-five-year-old woman who had been living in Los Angeles until three years ago. Fortunately, it was only a five-minute walk. Equally fortunate, her husband would be home in a few days from his recording session in Memphis. Just thinking about Michael finally getting his second chance at a music career warmed Katherine's heart, if not her nose.
December was not her favorite month, she thought as she walked up the road to the château. Christmas, still a few weeks away, was typically a pallid affair in Reigny, a few sad decorations in the run-down church, Mass offered by a different visiting priest every year, some ragged carol singing by the aged attendees, and then everyone off to a potluck dinner at the mairie. Spring was a distant hope, icy winds more likely than sun, and until Michael earned some royalties or concert tour money, the Goffs' budget would be too pinched for any expensive holiday presents.
She was still thinking about her husband's changing fortunes when a voice hailed her. "I say, Katherine, wait up," Pippa Hathaway called, holding the hood of a thin parka tight around her throat. Pippa was in her late twenties, close to six feet tall, and walked like a scarecrow, uncoordinated limbs moving to different rhythms. The spiky red hair that poked out around her head, as a result of a punk-inspired haircut she had recently gotten, only exaggerated the effect. Katherine wondered about the haircut. Was Pippa turning over a new leaf, coming out of her mousy shell?
"It's bloody freezing, excuse my French, and my anorak is leaking cold air. Whew." Pippa's loud exhale was visible in the air in front of her, but her voice was cheerful in spite of what looked like frozen fingers. "I left the good one at my dad's in London because I knew I was going home for the holidays, right? And wouldn't you know it's this cold and I'm frigid? Oh, by the bye, I ran into that darling Marie, the cheese maker. She's about to drop her baby, by the looks of her, and her mother's come down from Paris for good this time to wait for the birth."
The notion of new life in this hamlet of old people was cheering everyone up, although Katherine wondered what they expected a baby to do for Reigny's collective well-being. "I'll drop by and see if I can help, maybe do some basic supermarché shopping. I hope she lasts until after my lunch. You're coming, aren't you?"
"Righto. Wouldn't miss it. Shall I bring something, scones maybe?"
"Thanks, but I have a real French meal planned."
"Just as well. I'm a poor excuse as a baker, scones being about the best thing I do."
Katherine had thought hard before inviting a handful of women for a cozy get-together. The lunch she had hosted last July had turned into a memorable disaster. This time, she had spoken to Yves Saverin, the bookseller whose party crashing had launched the drama, and told him under no circumstances should he come even as far as the gate. And since it was winter, the party would be inside rather than under the pear tree, and she would put Gracey and Fideaux on guard duty at the door if necessary. The only man allowed to cross the threshold might be Marie's doting husband, he of the large ears, who seemed to believe his heavily pregnant wife could not move even a few feet without his watchful presence. Joseph and his Mary, she thought, and smiled.
"Where are you headed, Pippa? Why not stay in that snug little house in this rotten weather? I expect your cats are curled up inside."
"Oh, lord, yes, all six. Did you know I wound up with another? A poor little stray that one of mine must have invited home. Black as the Death Star, all skin and bones he was, but he's fine now, eats like a bloody horse. As you say, curled up in front of the heater with the others. But I have to get into Avallon to pick up my car. I was hoping I might catch a ride with you if you're taking tourists in the Bellegarde van today?"
In fact, Katherine was headed to Château de Bellegarde to do precisely that. In the wake of her father's death and her assumption of his many business ventures, Adele's daughter Sophie Bellegarde had started a small tour company. It specialized, she explained to Katherine, in local sights, including her family's historic castle and the small shops in Chablis, Noyers-sur-Serein, or Avallon for wine tasting and to shop and stroll the cobbled streets. When Katherine suggested adding a stop at an art gallery, Sophie had brushed the suggestion aside. "They don't want serious things like that. Too expensive." Why, Katherine wondered silently, thinking of her stack of unsold paintings racked in the storage shed, was art relegated to the status less necessary than almost everything else money could buy?
A local farmer had been hired to drive the little van Sophie purchased for the tours, but he was in Spain for the month of December, and Sophie had begged Katherine to do the driving. "It's only this trip in December and they're all Americans. Even if he were here, Louis's English is fractured at best."
It was out of the question that her mother, Adele Bellegarde, elderly, a terrible driver, and a new widow in the bargain, could be pressed into service. Yves had resumed his role as Sophie's beau now that a wealthy American heiress had permanently removed herself from Reigny's small society. But he'd told Sophie he was much too busy to drive her tourists, although Katherine rarely saw a car outside the shop he kept in the downstairs of his house.
Since Katherine was at loose ends this week, she didn't mind some distraction. It was too cold to paint in her studio, there was no one to cook for with Michael in the States, and she had run through the stack of English-language books she had bought on her last trip to Paris. Chatting with the American visitors would be a break from trying to translate the lightning-speed French that everyone around her spoke.
Everyone but Pippa, of course. Pippa had no French beyond baguette and fromage and "please" and "good morning," which hadn't stopped her from coming up with a plot and characters for a murder mystery set in Reigny. To Katherine's surprise, Pippa had received some encouragement from a potential publisher in England, and she told anyone who would listen that she was on the verge of a major book deal. All she had to do now, she explained, was write the book.
"As long as there's room in the van, I'm sure Sophie won't mind if you hitch a ride. You know Jeannette has an after-school job at the museum, mostly sweeping up? She'll be riding back with one of the tour participants and me. Sophie's always been fine with that. What's wrong with your Fiat?" "The brakes were making so much noise that people on the street were staring whenever I came to a stop," Pippa said. "Of course, people look at the car anyway. Do you know, I don't think I've seen another little Fiat around here?"
"It is distinctive," Katherine said. "It may be the color. Cherry red stands out." She didn't add that another reason might be the breathtaking speeds at which Pippa drove along the little roads that linked one small village to another and her habit of racing up to an intersection and slamming on the brakes so suddenly that people winced and feared for the cars or pedestrians in front of her. "What's all this you're carrying?"
"Oh, nothing, but you know I'm working on my novel and I have to be ready to photograph anything that might inspire me, and to take notes if someone says something important." Pippa held up a camera case and the kind of notebook students used in school.
"Do you expect to find much research material in Avallon today?" Katherine didn't know precisely how novel writing worked and wasn't entirely sure Pippa did either.
"One never knows, does one?" Pippa said, and the tone of her voice suggested this was a source of pleasure. "Will Michael be back in time for Christmas?"
"He'll be home in a week, plenty of time. Things have gone so much better than I dared hope. The album's close to being finished and there's a hint of a tour that he — we, actually — never thought could happen. And he's pleased with the songs he and Betty Lou have recorded with musicians J.B. rounded up in Memphis. She's fortunate to have a record producer for a husband. So, all is good."
Michael had hinted at more wonderful news when they talked last, but he wouldn't say what it was. Katherine was daydreaming about enough money to take the high-speed TGV train to Paris with enough left for a night or two at a hotel near the d'Orsay museum, or perhaps in the 5th arrondissement below the Panthéon somewhere. They had reached the tall doors of Château de Bellegarde before she returned to the moment and pulled on the thick rope that rang door chimes, a mash-up of old and new technologies that never ceased to irritate her. The oldest parts of the château had been in service before Joan of Arc had visited the area to drum up troops. Door chimes indeed!
They had to wait a few minutes for Adele's part-time housekeeper to open the door. Adele had introduced her new employee as the wife of a man who used to farm wheat and rapeseed but now sold tractors and other farming equipment, having sold his farmland to a distant relative. Now that she was alone much of the time, Adele Bellegarde had acceded to her daughter's insistence that she bring in someone to help with things.
"Bonjour, Madame," Katherine said. The greeting was standard in France, she had come to realize soon after she and Michael moved to Reigny to begin their new life. You said it at the boulangerie when it was your turn to order bread. You said it at the stalls of every flea market venue. You began every conversation at the pharmacy and the art supply store and the charcuterie with a quick "good day" greeting to the woman or man in front of you.
"Bonjour, Madame Goff," the woman replied and waved at the foyer behind her as she stepped aside.
"Hullo," said Pippa in her friendliest voice as they came in and shut the door. "I don't think we've met. I'm Pippa Hathaway. I live on rue Benoit at the edge of town. Perhaps you've seen my cats?" The housekeeper raised her eyebrows fractionally but said nothing.
"Madame lives in the other village in the commune," Katherine said to Pippa, then reverted to French to ask if Sophie was in the château.
"Oui, Madame. She is giving the tour and she asks if you can wait for her in the drawing room." The housekeeper turned and walked through a dark, cavernous space at least two stories high, its stone walls framing a polished wood staircase that branched in two at the landing. A pair of badly faded tapestries behind the stairs plus hand-pounded iron sconces set into the walls gave off enough atmosphere to impress tourists. It was a cold space even in summer. Today, it was so unwelcoming that Katherine all but trotted through it and into a more comfortable room furnished with upholstered furniture arranged in groups and a huge fireplace in which logs crackled and gave off a reassuring amount of heat.
"Brrr," said Pippa, heading over to stand in front of the fireplace, rubbing her chapped hands. "I wonder how they heat this place."CHAPTER 2
"By burning twenty-euro bills," came a voice from the doorway. Sophie Bellegarde greeted both women with kisses, although Pippa, who had never gotten used to the traditional gesture, bobbed the wrong way and barely avoided knocking heads. The woman who smiled at her guests was so different from the timid creature of six months ago that Katherine was still getting used to her. As the successor to her late father's Paris firm, and with his instinct for deal making, she radiated confidence. And as the fiancée of Yves, she had found her proper place in Reigny-sur-Canne at last. Even Madame Pomfort, the stern arbiter of Reigny's social order, approved. Sophie had put on weight, Katherine noticed, which was a good thing, since she had been unappealingly waiflike before, and she now sported a sophisticated haircut and bright lipstick.
"The guests are freshening up and Madame Caron is giving them espresso and madeleines in the kitchen. After that, they'll be ready to go into Avallon. I can't thank you enough, Katherine, for helping out." Sophie always spoke English to Katherine, and her language skills were impeccable. "Next spring, I shall have figured out a permanent solution, but you are an angel."
"It will be pleasant to meet some Americans. Not that I'm not happy in Reigny," Katherine added quickly.
"I understand," Sophie said. "If I had moved to Cleveland, let's say, I'm sure I'd be lonesome for a bit of Burgundy."
Cleveland, Katherine thought. Yves must have been complaining about his former girlfriend's habit of comparing all things French against the high standards of her own American hometown.
"How is Adele?" she said. "I see her so rarely in this cold weather. She isn't walking, or at least not when I'm being dragged around by my two unruly beasts."
"She doesn't get out much, I'm afraid. Without my father's dog to make walks necessary, she stays in her sitting room a lot. Come over and visit, please." Sophie undoubtedly felt pulled in several directions now that she was effectively the head of the household, the owner of her late father's Paris business, and the fiancée of a man who needed a great deal of attention.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Dressed for Death in Burgundy"
Copyright © 2018 Susan C. Shea..
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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