"Shea launches a cozy series that richly details life in a small French village. The outlandish antics of the eccentric locals add to the humor. Suggest to fans of Rhys Bowen's early "Evan Evans" series for the humor, the characters, and the charming setting." -Library Journal
From critically acclaimed author, Susan C. Shea, comes Love & Death in Burgundy, an atmospheric mystery novel filled with good Chablis, french cheese, and, of course, murder.
After three years of living in the small town of Reigny-sur-Canne, all Katherine Goff really wants is to be accepted by her neighbors into their little community. But as an American expat living in the proud region of Burgundy, that’s no easy task.
When the elderly Frenchman who lives in the village chateau is found dead at the bottom of a staircase, the town is turned into a hot bed of gossip and suspicion, and Katherine suddenly finds herself drawn deeper and deeper into the small town’s secrets. A motherless teenager, a malicious French widow, a brash music producer, and a would-be Agatha Christie are among those caught up in a storm that threatens to turn Katherine’s quiet life upside down. As more and more of the villagers' secrets are brought to light, Katherine must try to figure out who, if anyone, in the town she can trust, and which one of her neighbors just might be a killer.
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. In addition to Love & Death in Burgundy, she is also the author of the Dani O’Rourke mystery series. Susan lives in Marin County, California and travels to France as often as she can.
Read an Excerpt
Love & Death in Burgundy
By Susan C. Shea
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2017 Susan C. Shea
All rights reserved.
Reigny-sur-Canne was hardly more than a crossroads in Burgundy's famous landscape of pastures and grapevine-planted terroirs on rolling hills, overlooked by tourists for the most part, which was fine with its residents. No shops selling souvenir tea towels and postcards, not even a wine cave, only a musty-smelling bookstore and a sleepy café. Katherine Goff had realized soon after she and Michael transplanted themselves to the village three years before that the only reason summer visitors with maps made their way to Reigny was to see the crumbling Château de Bellegarde, which had played a role in the medieval clash of titans that defined so much of Burgundy's history.
This July morning, the pear tree's shade was welcome. Katherine's two guests sipped café crème from ceramic bowls their hostess had found early on in furnishing the old house her husband bought for her on a whim. Katherine, still beautiful at fifty-five, was stationed at her easel, her graying hair gathered in a ponytail, her petite body wrapped in an old patterned apron, and her fingers smudged with paint.
"We're going to put on the best show Reigny has ever seen, darlings." She picked up a brush. "Michael will play guitar and sing, of course, and Emile has offered to join him in a duet."
Yves, the owner of the bookstore, slumped in a misshapen rattan chair and groaned. "Mon dieu, Katherine. This does not make me desire to be on the same stage, you understand? Your husband, he is incroyable, amazing, but Emile, he cannot sing well in any language." Handsome, fortyish, with a strong Gallic nose and dark, almost black hair and eyes, Yves spoke heavily accented English with a drawl, pulling his words out like taffy.
"Yves is right," the pretty American woman sitting near him said. "You can't count on Emile's performance to impress an audience other than Jean's nasty pack of dogs." She nibbled some pain d'epices, Dijon's famous spicy gingerbread, with perfect white teeth. "Someone should speak to that man about keeping the beasts in his yard. It's impossible to take a walk without them trailing along as if they were about to jump you. In Cleveland, they would be on leashes."
"You're not in Cleveland anymore, Penny," Katherine said as she spun back to her easel on red leather 1940s heels, a vintage find at one of the summer flea markets and only five euros. "I have a remedy for that. Not for the dogs, of course. They will be with us, like ancient curses, until we die. Michael says Betty Lou has agreed to do a set, and you two can sing one of those funny disco medleys you do so well. Perhaps we can convince Emile to give us an accordion number instead of singing."
She picked up a tube of burnt umber oil paint and squeezed a little onto her palette, wondering if she had been too blunt with Penny, who could go on about how things were done in the city of her birth, a city she had fled the moment her late parents' fortune had been settled on her. She wondered if Yves, who had never seen a reason to travel outside of his native France, even knew where Cleveland was. She jabbed the brush onto the canvas in an area that was going to be sky. In the foreground of the painting, two young women in long gowns appeared to be examining a lamb. The scenery behind them was what Katherine saw when she looked over her crumbling stone wall, a field of alfalfa still dotted with the last of the brilliant red poppies.
"I haven't sung in ages and I'd be embarrassed," Penny said, "especially if Betty Lou Holliday's going to perform. She's famous. People will be coming to hear her, not us." She paused to swat at a bug that had settled on her slender, uncovered arm. "Damn these horseflies. Why don't those new people from Belgium board their horses somewhere in the country?"
"My dear, this is the country," Katherine said. She would have to put the unfinished painting away soon and set up for her lunch party. "More black, do you think?" she said, half turning toward Yves, but really thinking out loud. Here in Burgundy, she had discovered after several years of full-time residency, unabashed blue sky days were as rare as uncomplicated relationships. The heavy rains, chilly even in summer, appeared seemingly out of nowhere. Skies darkened ten minutes after she hung the sheets, and the alfalfa danced in gusty winds.
"Betty Lou hasn't had a big hit record since, well, since they were records and not CDs," she said to comfort Penny. "Maybe I'm exaggerating. Country music was never my thing. Anyway, Michael's trying to persuade her to try a little rock. Her husband, J.B., is her producer, you know, and he's all for it."
"I don't understand why you offered to organize the entertainment for this local thing," Penny said. "It's so much work."
"Well, to be the queen of the party, of course, admired for pulling off the best show in Reigny's history. I expect you to cover me with glory." Katherine laughed to disguise her hope that they understood how serious she was. "Everyone will say what a charming and talented woman Madame Goff is, and how lucky we are to have her in our midst."
"Have all the ladies coming to lunch today volunteered, or is this a recruiting event?" Penny said.
"No, not at all. I'd like Betty Lou to meet some local people. She's isolated in that house they leased so far out of town. Michael says it's elegant, but the real draw is the recording studio. The place is owned by a French actor, but he's never there."
"I am invited for lunch also?" Yves said, eyebrows cocked in what Katherine guessed he thought of as an appealing expression. "I don't mind closing for a couple of hours. Business, it is terrible. Yesterday was one customer, a tourist who wanted every book in the shop about the château, as they all do this time of year, but nothing else."
"I'm afraid not. Adele Bellegarde is coming."
"Why?" Yves said, his voice rising. "She tells tales about me and you invite her to your home? I am insulted." He abandoned his smile and glowered at Katherine, who was too used to his extravagant moods to pay much attention.
"Yes, I know. But that's only because you wooed her daughter before abandoning her for our adorable Penny," Katherine said. "Naturally, she is disappointed for Sophie's sake."
"Wooed? I do not know what that means," Yves said, not entirely convincingly. "Her mother put me in a position where I had to ask the unhappy thing to a film or two, but that was it. A bore, I tell you."
"Yes, well, unfortunately, Adele knows exactly how you feel about her daughter. I think you told everyone in town, which was a very foolish thing to do," Katherine said, "and now she will not break bread with you. I do understand how she feels, you know? It was unkind of you, Yves."
Penny looked at Yves and smiled, tapping his hand before leaning down to pick up her bag. "You are a bad, bad boy," she said in mock rebuke, making a face at him.
At that moment, a large black dog bounded up to them, pink tongue hanging out. More slowly, a man in a Stetson and a smaller, white version of the shaggy dog followed, the man dipping his head to enter the leafy green shade.
"Howdy," he said, pulling up a straight-backed chair from near the tree's trunk and swinging it around so he could sit backward on it. He took off his hat and ruffled his pale blond hair, clenching a thin, unlit cigarillo between his teeth.
Penny let out a small scream. The dogs had tumbled in her direction, and Gracey, who was roughly the size of a small black bear, bumped into her as it playfully nipped its companion.
"Down," Michael shouted. "Git, both of you." He waved his hat and both dogs ambled off, grinning and panting, to find their own shady tree.
Yves spoke into the quiet. "Your dogs, Michael, they do not know their place. Not like French dogs."
"I wouldn't have a French dog if you paid me," said the man in the cowboy hat. "Damn things piss on the furniture."
"Now, darling," Katherine said to her husband. "You know that's not true. It only happened once and it was not, thank heavens, an upholstered chair."
Michael Goff laughed. "Kay's the most softhearted person I know. Once is enough in my book. You won't catch my dogs doing that." He cocked his head in Katherine's direction and winked at Penny as he said it.
"I saw that," Katherine said, pointing her brush at him. "Stop teasing. Anyway, it wasn't a French dog. It was the ambassador's dog, which makes it a German dog by your logic." She gestured broadly with the hand that still held a paintbrush.
"Albert Bellegarde's no ambassador. He's a businessman who got an honorary job title because of his money, which I heard he earned by selling guns to mercenaries." Michael had pointed this out to his wife before, but Katherine chose not to remember it if the occasion called for a bit of dramatic emphasis. She understood that correcting her on small points was merely one of the running choruses in a long and comfortable marriage, and so she breezed past comments like this one.
Yves, however, took full advantage of the opening. "You see, he is a villain," he said, stabbing the air with his forefinger to drive home his point. "Me, I am surprised he has not been arrested or even assassinated."
"Oh, for heaven's sake," Katherine said, "he's an old man, maybe a bit full of himself."
"Michael," Yves said, changing gears seamlessly in the face of the irritation he heard in her voice, "you are going to sing in Katherine's little show, non?"
"Yup, I'm doing a set with Betty Lou. Got any requests?"
"Rock and roll, mon ami," Yves said in a loud voice, "that is what we want. Maybe you can get one of your famous friends to do a set, yes?"
Yves had probably started the rumor three years ago that the new American resident was a rock star living incognito in Reigny. Their next-door neighbor, Emile, a cheerful man of small talent and high musical ambitions, had taken up the idea with gusto and had doubtless spread it far and wide, at least as far as the nearby market towns. Katherine knew it made Michael uncomfortable. On the other hand, it was flattering and, after all, her husband had been on the verge of stardom before things with the band went sour.
"What about you?" Penny asked her.
"Paint the stage set, of course, and make the champagne punch, using Crémant, since we only use wine from the region. The fête's in honor of the Feast of the Assumption, so the entertainment should probably be, well, decorous."
"Non, Katherine," Yves said with a burst of laughter. "I assure you it is not celebrated in Reigny as a religious festival. This is France; vive la république."
"In any case, I hardly feel I'm up to tap dancing in front of an audience." Secretly, she was torn, liking the notion of showing off her figure and dancing moves almost as much as she feared having people laugh at her. It was her exercise and she practiced in front of a mirror daily, in the wood-floored bedroom behind dense lace curtains, staring critically at the woman who looked back at her, scanning for inadvertent comedy.
Lately, to her annoyance, the voice in her head insisted on asking what Madame Pomfort would think. Everyone in Reigny-sur-Canne looked sideways at the widow who presided over Reigny's social life before deciding when to plant their dahlias or paint their shutters. Unfortunately, Madame shared the local prejudice against foreigners. Those few, mostly seasonal, residents who even noticed her snubs learned to keep a low profile when in her company, say, picking up a newspaper at the café. Most of them disappeared in the depths of winter anyway, irritating the locals who had to put up with cold rain, freezing temperatures, and poorly heated homes.
Katherine, however, felt the rejection of the local society keenly. When Michael surprised her by saying he'd found a house online that seemed to fit her dream of a simple life in the countryside south of Paris, he had assured her she'd fit right in with her command of French and her desire to please. But all her life, Katherine had lived with the equal terrors of being invisible and being seen by everyone as a fool, the legacy of an unloved childhood she had never quite escaped. The unease clung to her like a creeping fog at times, fended off by painting and flea market shopping, solitary tap dancing, and an extra glass of wine when the smell of rejection threatened to choke her. Mme Pomfort was the living embodiment of her fears, living five hundred yards away down the picturesque little road.
Charm, Katherine's only weapon, had not penetrated Madame's thick armor. Katherine's few friends were summer visitors like Penny or the outgoing Belgians who came for long weekends, and the Bellegardes, who lived in the château but were not quite part of the local scene either. The young Englishwoman who had moved into a dark little house at the other end of Reigny's main street was no relief, being somewhat reclusive. But the mostly elderly women and men who made up Reigny's year-round population followed Mme Pomfort's lead like courtiers attending a queen. All except Yves, who considered himself a communist except when it came to paying the annual commune tax for garbage collection.
"Mais oui," Yves said now, jumping up. "Of course you shall tap, my dear Katherine. I shall sing with Penny, and your husband and his American cowgirl-singer shall amaze us all with their duets. Emile, well, I don't think so. We shall arrange to keep him busy at the pétanque court, yes?"
"Country music, Yves, and Betty Lou was big time," Michael said.
"Emile may surprise you," Katherine said. "He has apparently dug up an electric guitar. He told me he was in a rock band in Paris when he was a student. Admittedly, it seems a little strange given his fixation on the accordion."
Michael snorted. "Well, hell, we've all been in a rock band at some point or other."
"Not me. You were in a famous band, weren't you, Michael?" Penny said. "The Crazy Leopards? I went to see them when they played at Wellesley for homecoming. We were thrilled."
Michael unfolded his height from the chair, turned it back to face the little group, and slapped his hat on his leg. He squinted into the far distance and shrugged. "That was more than twenty years ago, and I left the band before they went platinum."
Katherine looked sideways at Michael. Would this never stop hurting? She had seen the slight twinge of his mouth before he answered Penny.
"Well, I've got to get on with the rehearsing," he said, and walked around to where his wife was standing and gave her a quick kiss.
"Darling, you will be gone until four, won't you?" Katherine said. "This is really a ladies' lunch. No one will gossip if you're here."
"Can't have that," Michael said, leaning in to snag a piece of gingerbread from the scallop-edged serving plate with the hairline crack only she could see, another of Katherine's flea market finds. "So long," he said, ducking under the tree's low branches. He ambled back across the uncut lawn toward the old stone house, accompanied by a yellow cat that appeared out of nowhere to trail along behind him. Katherine paused to admire his broad shoulders and the snug fit of his jeans. He had been a catch back in the day, five years her junior, which hadn't mattered a bit to either of them, and she still felt lucky. A few minutes later, the group under the tree heard his old Citroën labor up the little road next to the house.
"My dear husband has no idea if people are idly gossiping or plotting an overthrow of the European Union," Katherine said to Yves and Penny as the car sound faded away. "He has no French, and hand signals don't work in general conversation as well as they do when choosing croissants at the patisserie. Now, I must clean up and finish the ratatouille for lunch, so off with you both. Penny, I'll see you at one."
"My plumber's due in a few minutes, anyway," Penny said. She stood up and shook out her elegant linen slacks. "I don't know why he can't fix things the first time, or even the third. It's the same every summer, from the week I arrive until I close up the house. I'm beginning to think I'm his retirement fund."
"You probably are," said Katherine, coming to kiss her American guest on both cheeks.
"If you hear me scream, I've been attacked by Jean's pack of wild animals." Penny wafted off in a cloud of expensive perfume, picking her way down slate steps, through the tangle of roses and irises to the end of the garden and through the iron gate, which squealed as she opened it. Yves pulled his car keys out of his pocket and jingled them.
Excerpted from Love & Death in Burgundy by Susan C. Shea. Copyright © 2017 Susan C. Shea. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Katherine Goff has been living in the region of Burgundy for three years but she still doesn't feel that she has been accepted by the locals.. She tries to join in on different village activities so that the natives will acknowledge her as one of them. When another non-native is found dead at the bottom of the stairs in his home, the new widow pleads with Katherine to find out what happened. Was it really an accident or was it murder? I found a hard time getting through the beginning of this story. I'm not sure if it was the great number of characters being introduced or the fact that their wasn't enough character definition. I'm hoping that the next installment will remedy this shortfall.
Summary from Goodreads: "After three years of living in the small town of Reigny-sur-Canne, all Katherine Goff really wants is to be accepted by her neighbors into their little community. But as an American expat living in the proud region of Burgundy, that's no easy task. When the elderly Frenchman who lives in the village chateau is found dead at the bottom of a staircase, the town is turned into a hot bed of gossip and suspicion, and Katherine suddenly finds herself drawn deeper and deeper into the small town's secrets. A motherless teenager, a malicious French widow, a brash music producer, and a would-be Agatha Christie are among those caught up in a storm that threatens to turn Katherine's quiet life upside down. As more and more of the villagers' secrets are brought to light, Katherine must try to figure out who, if anyone, in the town she can trust, and which one of her neighbors just might be a killer." My Thoughts: I really enjoyed my time reading this book! It is always delightful when a book just transports you to another place. Reading this book made me feel like I was there in the French countryside with Katherine and her husband. I've never had the chance to visit France but I could certainly picture what it must be like with this book. The descriptions of the food, the countryside....I just couldn't get enough of all of it! This was a quiet read that I just took my time with. I loved Katherine's character so much. The descriptions of the different items she would find at the market and the little thrift shop finds she had come across just fit in so perfectly with the atmosphere of the book. I really can't say enough good things about just the feel of this book. Although there was a murder mystery happening, what I enjoyed most about this book was everything else. Don't get me wrong, I found the mystery portion interesting but it was the other parts that made this cozy mystery stand out for me! Another thing that I really enjoyed about this book was all of the other characters. There were a variety of characters in this book each different from the other. It made the book fun to read as you never knew what some of the characters were getting up to. I liked the chances that we had to get to know some of these characters as it also helped to make me feel like I was really there within the story. As to the mystery itself, I guessed parts of it but was incorrect as to the reasons why. In fact, I really missed a good portion of the whodunnit completely which made the ending more intense than I had expected. I seriously felt like I was questioning what was going on right until the author decided to share the truth with the reader. It was a solid read and I'm eager to visit this quiet French village again! Overall, I really enjoyed this book and am hoping that this is the beginning to a cozy mystery series. It would be really great to have the chance to visit with these characters (and especially Katherine) again! I loved my time in this world that the author created - I almost wasn't ready to leave by the time the story ended. I really think that those readers who like a quieter mystery should give this one a shot as I'm sure that they will enjoy it as much as I did! Highly recommended! Bottom Line: A book whose atmosphere just pulled me into the world that the author created. I loved every minute of it! Disclosure: I received a copy of this book thanks to the publisher and NetGalley.
Katherine is an artist and her husband, Michael, is a musician and they live in a small quiet French village. All Katherine wants to do is fit in with the people of this little village. They have been living there for 3 years and she is still struggling. Michael, on the other hand, just wants to play music. Fortunately for Michael semi-famous country singer Betty Lou Holliday and her producer husband, J.B. move into town for the summer. Michael spends a lot of time working with them in hopes of making an album and possibly go out on tour. Things in this quiet town change when elderly village chateau owner Albert is found dead at the bottom of an old steep outside staircase. Albert and his wife Adele live in the chateau and provide tours of the grand property. Everyone is shocked to hear of his death especially when it looks like it might have been murder. But who would want to hurt an elderly man ? And why ? While Katherine does her best to support Michael and his musical dreams she is busy getting paintings ready for her gallery show as well as entertain the residents of the village in hopes of shedding some light on Albert's dead. Love and Death in Burgundy by Susan C. Shea takes you to a far away place and you don't even leave your couch. As she describes the quaint little village, it's people and their lives, you immediately feel like you have known them forever. Let Shea open up your imagination......
Love and Death in Burgundy by Susan C. Shea is a cozy mystery set in Reigny-sur-Canne, France. Katherine Goff and her husband, Michael own a home in Reigny. They moved to the area three years prior. Katherine has convinced the mayor to let her organize the annual Feast of the Assumption fete. Katherine is hoping the event will be a success, and it will finally get her accepted by the locals (who are leery of foreigners). Katherine receives a call from Adele Bellegarde. Adele and her husband, Albert own Chateau de Bellegarde. Adele states that Albert is dead and wants Katherine to come over quickly. Katherine along with Michael arrive just after Henri Soral, Reigny’s sheriff. Albert is at the bottom of the very narrow and steep steps of the chateau with a broken neck. Was it an accident or was Albert helped down the stairs? Katherine cannot help but make some discreet inquiries to see who wished Albert harm. There is no shortage of suspects in this small town where Albert was not well-liked. Katherine needs to discern the gossip from the truth to find the culprit. Will Katherine succeed before harm comes to an innocent party? Love and Death in Burgundy is easy to read, but I found the pace to be slow. Katherine is the main character, but there are numerous other characters included. Many of them are thrown at the reader at the beginning of the story. Jeanette, J.B. Holliday, Madame Pomfort, Sophie Bellegarde, Brett Holliday, Betty Lou Holliday, Penny Masterson, Marie, Emile, Yves Saverin, Pippa Hathaway, Michael Goff are just a sampling. Along with these characters, there are their storylines. I give Love and Death in Burgundy 3 out of 5 stars. Love and Death in Burgundy is more cozy than mystery. The mystery was far in the background (get out your binoculars). It seemed almost an afterthought. The main focus was Katherine. She needed to be accepted by these villagers (issues from her childhood). Time was devoted to her husband, Michael and his failed music career (he is very disgruntled). Let us not forget young Jeanette, daughter of the local thief. Jeanette is a fourteen and takes after her father. She likes to spy on the villagers and steal small items. Every character in the book is quirky or eccentric. There is just so much going on in this book. I wish the mystery had been the focal point of the story and that it was more complex (the potential was there). The little information provided about the crime allows the reader to easily solve it. There are French phrases and words sprinkled copiously throughout the book. I was grateful for the translate feature on my e-reader. The book does contain mild foul language. If you are a reader who likes quirky, off-beat humorous stories, then you will enjoy reading Love and Death in Burgundy. If you prefer a cozy mystery with more meat to it, than Love and Death in Burgundy is not the right story for you.
I loved the vibrant colors on the cover. The story was good, there were lots of details and the author told a good, solid mystery. When a sudden death causes chaos in this story by Susan C. Shea, Katherine feels the needs to ask her own questions while the attempted to unravel the links and secrets in Love and Death in Burgundy.