Escaping the demands of Paris police work, Commissaire Capucine Le Tellier embarks on a well-deserved Mediterranean cruise. But wherever the renowned inspector goes, murder is sure to be close on the horizon. . .
On the azure waters off the coasts of Corsica and Sardinia, what could be more relaxing and rewarding than traipsing around the Mediterranean enjoying the local culinary delights. Among the invited bon vivants are Capucine, her husband, the celebrated restaurant critic, her special agent cousin Jacques, a famed bar owner, and even her boss. To all appearances, the table is set for an affair to remember.
In the midst of this pleasure cruise, Natalie, the yacht's cook, is lost overboard. A sudden squall is the assumed cause. But once a bullet hole is discovered in her jacket, suspicions quickly shift and the onboard bonhomie suffers accordingly. When a shell casing is uncovered that matches the gun Capucine is authorized to carry, for the first time in her stellar career, the hardworking detective finds herself the prime suspect.
For Capucine, these are clearly not the deep waters she envisioned as part of her holiday. As the motives become murkier, the gifted Commissaire will need to harness all her powers of deduction to get to the bottom of the mysterybefore she ends up at the bottom of the sea.
Praise for Alexander Campion and the Capucine Culinary Mysteries
"Francophiles love this series for its Parisian setting and police detective Capucine's culinary cases." Library Journal
"Delectable. . ..sure to please the most discriminating palates." Publishers Weekly on Killer Critique
"This intelligent series. . .will appeal to a diversity of readers. Devotees of G.M. Malliet and Charles Todd will especially enjoy this different and delicious series." Booklist on Killer Critique
"A feast of crime with a soupçon of gourmet delight." RT Book Reviews, 4 Stars, on Crime Fraiche
"Full of amusing characters. . ..Readers will want a second helping." Publishers Weekly on The Grave Gourmet
"This new series offers a uniquely blended mix of ‘hooks' that will appeal to a wide variety of mystery lovers." Booklist on The Grave Gourmet
"Features lively dialogue, much discussion of culinary delights, a peek into the French criminal justice system, and a pleasing mystery." Library Journal on The Grave Gourmet
About the Author
Alexander Campion started out as a true New Yorker, graduating from Columbia and migrating downtown to Wall Street. Early on, someone, a little apologetically, proposed he spend six months maximum in Paris helping out with a new venture his firm had just acquired. He stayed thirty five years, eventually becoming a restaurant critic and progressing inevitably to gastronomic thrillers.
Read an Excerpt
Murder on the Mediterranean
By ALEXANDER CAMPION
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2014 Alexander Campion
All rights reserved.
The cramps seared without mercy. On the lee side of the cockpit she contorted into a fetal twist, feet tight against buttocks, knees hard under chin. Like synchronized dancers, the twin wheels of the helm gyrated back and forth in the grip of the autopilot. Two women sat huddled on the other side of the cockpit, ostracizing her with their whispers. She glared at them, as if their rudeness was the source of her pain.
Another spasm wrenched her lower abdomen in a vise grip. She grunted. On the horizon a static of lightning was followed by a dull bowling-ball rumble of thunder. Greasy, fat drops of rain began to fall out of the sooty sky. She stood up, grabbed a foul-weather jacket from a heap at the foot of the settee, slipped it on, and inched across the sloping deck toward the bow.
Another spasm stunned her. A torrent buckled down, aimed only at her, soaking her to the skin. She couldn't manage to pull the jacket closed. Drenched, her T-shirt stuck to her breasts and stomach. Shuddering, she continued to fumble with the jacket. It wasn't hers. She must have picked up one of the women's. Great. Now, on top of everything else, she was going to get an earful when she got back to the cockpit. Even in the downpour, those rich bitches would get their noses all out of joint if one of them had to wear her taped-up, oil-stained piece of shit.
A violent spasm heaved at her bowels. Only one thing mattered, getting to the bow before it was too late. Doubled over, she shuffled along the heaving, sloping nonslip surface of the deck, her bare feet skating through the cascading water. The pain intensified. She wasn't going to make it to the bow.
The top of her head rammed into the wire cable of the forestay. She gasped a sob of pain and relief. The surprise loosened her grip on her muscles, and she felt the contractions of unstoppable peristalsis take charge. She ripped off the foul-weather jacket, threw it down on the deck, shrugged her shoulders out of the elastic suspenders of her foul-weather pants, pushed them down to her knees with the panties inside, gripped the forestay with both hands, swung herself out over the bow pulpit railing. The action unleashed the full force of the eruption. She was sure the explosion of her intestines could be heard in the cockpit, forty-five feet away, despite the din of the storm.
The relief lasted only seconds. She convulsed in pain again. And once again. And yet again. A figure emerged from the sticky darkness. Bound to be one of the two bitches, who'd come to see what was wrong. For a brief second, her embarrassment overrode the anguish of her gut. Hoping to keep from being seen in her mortifying position, she bleated out, "It's nothing. I'll be back in a second. Don't worry about me." Another spasm. Another spurt.
But it wasn't a woman. Oh God, not now. He was back. This was absolutely too much. She hurled insults. Strong hands grabbed her naked ankles and shook her legs. Her colon pumped out a weak but satisfying spurt. She relaxed her grip on the forestay, felt herself shoved hard forward, toppled off the bow pulpit, fell butt first into the sea.
She tried to tread water, but the pants around her ankles held fast. As she squirmed to kick off the foulie pants, she felt the slick hull of the boat rub against her arm. She scrabbled, grabbing for a handhold on the slick gel-coated side of the boat. In an instant the boat was gone, its tiny white stern light no more than a pinprick in the blackness.
She thrashed, but the bagging pants dragged her deeper and deeper the more she struggled. She swallowed a mouthful of salt water, gagged, coughed, swallowed more.
Her last thought was that drowning was supposed to be the most peaceful of deaths. How could everyone have been so wrong about that?CHAPTER 2
Capucine, I don't know how I let you talk me into this escapade. The thought of tossing helplessly over the waves of the open sea in your tiny walnut shell has been keeping me awake for days."
Police Judiciaire commissaire Capucine Le Tellier smiled at her erstwhile boss, Juge d'Instruction Inès Maistre, from under mischievous eyebrows and tilted her head back to swallow the sugary dregs of her demitasse of café express.
"The Diomede is hardly a nutshell, and she's definitely not mine. She's a bareboat charter. A fifty-five-foot Dufour with four cabins and all the room in the world. Much bigger than my first apartment after I graduated from Sciences Po. Look, you can see her over there."
Capucine pointed at a substantial yacht docked on the other side of the marina. The mainsail furled on its boom was sheathed in a navy-blue cover lettered MEDITERRANEAN ANCHORAGE YACHTS.
Inès peered at the boats over reading glasses perched on the tip of her nose, shrugged her shoulders in Gallic resignation. With an effort Capucine twisted her frown into a smile. The women were almost the same age, still south of their midthirties, and had worked together often in the antediluvian era, a few years prior, when Capucine was still a reluctant hotshot in the fiscal brigade. Capucine had never been entirely at ease with Inès. Her neurotic obsession with putting corporate criminals behind bars was as unsettling as it was captivating.
Capucine had blurted out her invitation two weeks earlier, when an unexpected surge of camaraderie had washed over her during a luncheon meeting. Inès wanted Capucine to work with her on a case. Even though Capucine now had her hands full with her own brigade in the tough working-class Twentieth Arrondissement, the thought of lending a hand on an intricate financial problem had produced a thrill.
A waiter—an eighteen-year-old who was obviously paying for his summer in the sun by working tables—came up with menus. He had a hard time tearing his eyes away from Capucine's décolleté. She concluded she might just have gone one button too far with her white linen shirt.
"Any news on your suspect?" Capucine asked Inès.
"He's a bit more than a suspect. He's guilty as hell. All we have to do is prove it."
"Would you like me to explain about the dishes?" the young waiter asked, eyes still glued to Capucine. Capucine ignored him as if she hadn't heard.
"And he was released two days ago, but that was only to be expected."
The situation was straightforward. The guilty-as-hell man in question was the young grandson of the chairman of a venerable family-owned Paris investment bank, Tottinguer & Cie. The house was so ancient, the name was pronounced differently from the way it was spelled. Nevertheless, Inès was convinced the bank's management, including the grandson, were inveterate financial miscreants. She had been after them for years and had never been able to produce even the slightest simulacrum of a case.
But now she might have found a chink in their armour. André Tottinguer, the grandson, a gérant of the bank and also a known philanderer, had been arrested for assaulting his wife. Inès had explained that Tottinguer had arrived home, returning from a tryst, at four in the morning to find his wife pressing the barrels of his Purdey shotgun up against his nose, her finger white tight on the trigger. Fortunately, the silly woman had left the safety on. He grabbed the gun, chased her down the stairwell, fired one shot into the ceiling and another through the lobby's interior glass door after she'd run out. The wife, in her bathrobe and pajamas, managed to find a cab and get to her sister's. The concierge of the building called the police, who arrested Tottinguer.
"And why did the police let him go?"
"That was my idea. No prosecutor would have even tried to present a case of attempted manslaughter. Charges might have been brought for tapage nocturne, creating a disturbance in the night, but all you get for that is a fine.
"No, I want to use this incident for an investigation of domestic violence. With your experience in the Twentieth, you're an expert. Once I have him solidly behind bars, the wife will cooperate with me and get me all the fuel I need for the financial prosecution of the whole family."
Capucine didn't know what to say. She twisted her mouth in the tight French frown that could mean either assent or incredulity.
"Capucine, I'm going to get him this time. Believe me. He'll go up for twenty years. And the rest of the family will follow right after. Just watch me." Inès gripped the edge of the table so hard, her knuckles paled.
There was an awkward silence. The tintinnabulation of steel halyards rattling against aluminum masts became audible.
Inès made a valiant attempt to put the conversation back on an even keel.
"Tell me more about this boat trip of yours."
"We leave on the morning tide tomorrow morning and sail straight for Bonifacio. You'll love it. It's the most beautiful town in Corsica, built high up on a white cliff so eroded by the sea that the town overhangs the water and looks like it might collapse at any moment. Then we spend a few days exploring the east coast of Sardinia and sail straight back here."
"And who else is there going to be?"
"There'll be nine of us in all. Six others besides you and me and my husband, Alexandre. My cousin Jacques—he's with the Ministry of the Interior—is coming, too. And one of Alexandre's cronies, Serge Monnot, who owns a number of very popular bars in the Marais, will be the skipper. He's an avid sailor, and he's the one who chartered the boat. Then there's Angélique Berthier and her husband, Dominique. Angélique was a classmate of mine at Sciences Po. She's doing very well as a partner in a head-hunting firm. Actually, we've drifted a bit apart since school, but we used to be very close friends. Her husband, Dominique, is wonderful, a charming marine watercolorist. And there's a woman I don't know, Florence Henriot. She's a friend of Serge's and is in charge of one of the imprints at Hachette. She used to be a famous professional racing sailor. Twice she won the Route du Rhum singlehanded yacht race to Guadeloupe."
Inès grimaced and shuddered histrionically. "How could anyone want to do that? God knows how long she was alone on a boat without really sleeping or having a proper bath." She looked up sharply at Capucine. "There are bathrooms on this boat, aren't there?"
"Of course. There's one attached en suite to each of the cabins. Except on a boat they're called heads, not bathrooms."
Inès snorted and shook her head slightly. "That only makes eight people. Who's the ninth?"
"The professional crew member Serge hired. A young girl, apparently. She's on board to cook and clean and help him when he maneuvers the boat, so all we have to do is lie around in the sun and eat delicious meals."
"Good. We'll put the time to good use. We need to brainstorm about Tottinguer."
"And unwind a little. Let's not forget about that part. You're going to be enchanted by Bonifacio, and the Costa Smeralda in Sardinia is the most beautiful coast in the Mediterranean."
"Maybe, but my main objective is to keep you fully in my sights until you're formally assigned to me. If need be, I'll handcuff our wrists together."
Capucine laughed over politely at the joke.
Inès frowned at Capucine over her reading glasses. "Capucine, I need to get this man. Without the quality of the police work you can bring to my team, I'm dead. Just dead."CHAPTER 3
Five miles away in Saint-Tropez, Alexandre also sat at a restaurant table overlooking the inimitable azure of the Mediterranean. He had asked for the check, and the maitre d' had arrived with thimble-size glasses of liqueur de framboise and the assurance that the honor of Monsieur de Huguelet's presence at the restaurant Pétrus was far more compensation than the establishment deserved. He was, after all, the undisputed doyen of restaurant critics.
"When was the last time you actually paid for a meal in a restaurant, mon cousin?" Jacques asked with a smirk.
Despite himself, Alexandre was invariably amused by Jacques, the son of Capucine's father's brother. The two had grown up together as brother and sister. Jacques never tired of hinting that there might have been something a bit more than purely fraternal to the relationship. Jacques also took unrestrained joy in the fact that he held an ill-defined, but apparently exalted, post with the DGSE, France's intelligence service, which occasionally cast him in the role of éminence grise in Capucine's cases.
Alexandre sipped his bone-chilling alcool. He would not allow himself to be baited. The meal had been excellent. They had both had Mediterranean spiny lobster. Jacques had chosen less well and had ordered his sautéed on a door-size teppanyaki grill, while Alexandre had chosen his presented in delicate fresh pasta ravioles with a creamy sauce of liquefied fennel bulbs, shallots, mustard, and just a hint of orange juice. Far more than satisfactory.
The restaurant Pétrus had recently opened at the north end of Saint-Tropez's fabled quai Jean Jaures and was fast making a name for itself not only as a fashionable, dans le vent restaurant, but also as the purveyor of reference of prepared meals to the mega yachts that populated the quai. Alexandre decided he would write something upbeat about the Pétrus in his blog on Le Figaro's website.
The framboise downed, hands shaken, promises to return made, favorable mentions in the press hinted at, Alexandre and Jacques set out on their postprandial stroll down the quai Jean Jaures.
The Saint-Tropez port was immutable, crammed with wide, porch-size fantail decks of gigantic yachts berthed stern to quai, invariably decorated with an ornate vase of flowers on a table, swarming with young, tanned, obsequious, athletic crew in shorts and T-shirt uniforms.
"We have only one boat slave, it seems," Jacques said languidly, aping a disappointed moue. "I hope she makes up in pulchritude what we lack in quantity."
Alexandre harrumphed. "The last thing we need on this cruise is a boat girl. Florence is a world-champion sailor. Serge is very competent. Capucine knows her way around boats. If you ask me, Serge took one look at that coffinsize forepeak cabin and decided it would be perfect for some minion he could boss around like Captain Bligh."
At this point in their flanocherie, as Alexandre called it, they reached Sénéquier, the fabled café epicenter of the Riviera. Considering that the vacation ideal of every French person under the age of thirty-five was to spend the month of August with elbows propped up on one of Sénéquier's red, triangular tables, it was not surprising that there were no seats available on the terrace.
Two girls, their long legs at the apricot beginnings of their summer tans, stood up to leave. Jacques pirouetted into a canvas director's chair with the finesse of a dancer, and Alexandre followed suit by spilling into his. A waiter arrived, imperiously flicking his side towel in irritation. There was a queue inside, and he had already received copious tips in exchange for a table. Jacques looked blandly at the man, straightening the crease in his Lanvin whitelinen trousers, revealing creamy soft, baby-blue suede Tod's driving shoes. The waiter checked and respectfully stood up straight. Then he caught sight of Alexandre, felt he should recognize him, stood up straighter still.
"Messieurs?" he asked with exaggerated politeness.
"Pastis," Alexandre ordered, glancing at Jacques, who nodded.
When the drinks came, they both fell silent, admiring the high-school chemistry trick of the clear golden pastis turning milky white when water was added.
"Actually," Alexandre said after his first sip, "I really am in a pet about this boat girl of Serge's. I'd planned on doing the cooking myself. Working on those tiny boat stoves is an exciting challenge. I have a whole folder of recipes and a carrier bag filled with basic necessities ... tins of páté de foie gras and a few jars of truffles and ..."
Alexandre had failed to attract Jacques's attention. Alexandre searched the terrace for the source of Jacques's fascination. Jacques seemed captivated by some creature in the very depths of the terrace. This was unexpected, since Jacques never looked at women. A fact that, when combined with his immoderate interest in clothes, made the family wonder if he wasn't, well, just possibly a soupgon fey. Then Alexandre focused on the woman, a translucent beauty with alabaster skin, silken pale blond hair, and ice-blue eyes. Even a woolly mammoth would have stared.
Excerpted from Murder on the Mediterranean by ALEXANDER CAMPION. Copyright © 2014 Alexander Campion. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
You would need to be French to like this book.
Alexander Campion is well aware of the perils of writing a series. Popular protagonists with their group of cohorts are sometimes forced by fandom to remain static, verging on stock characters. By book 5, Campion was feeling a need to expand Capucine's persona. He succeeded by making her the main suspect of the murder. Opening with the murder, a storm tossed death at sea, signals to the reader that we are far from the usual Paris setting. Capucine along with ten others, are planning to vacation by sailing in the Mediterranean. They plan to sail to Bonifacio, Corsica, then explore the east coast of Sardinia and then return to France. Capucine hopes to use the time to unwind. Her guest and former boss, Ines, wants to focus Capucine's brilliance while assisting her capture a notorious foe. Guests become suspects and suspects turn vicious as all are considered when the body washes ashore. Instead of an accidental drowning, a bullet matching Capucine's weapon is recovered. Alexandre while focused as usual on culinary challenges, is able to set his all things food obsessed thoughts aside and help Capucine. Jacques remains inscrutable but mysteriously successful. The other passengers reflect the stresses of suspicion. Who among them is the killer? Part of the joy of reading a culinary mystery is reading of new cuisines found in little known locations. A reader unfamiliar with Corsican or Sardinian cooking will be tempted to try some of the delightful dishes, lovingly described. In addition one can become an armchair traveler through the detailed and accurate description of the settings. In an interview published in PW in 2014, Campaion stated he planned to expand the series to 12 volumes. He planned to move Capucine towards motherhood and increase her political awareness. As of 2019 no further books in the series have surfaced. One hopes this situation will be remedied. Recommended for Francophiles and lovers of fine dining.