Review: Love & Death in Burgundy, by Susan C. Shea. St. Martin’s Press: Minotaur Books

The author prefaces her book with a touching summary of her thoughts and feelings about the setting and the people in it. I was predisposed to like the book because of that, before I started Chapter 1.

Susan Shea uses the voices of two characters to tell her story. The principal one is Katherine Goff, who with her husband Michael is doing her best to become an accepted resident of the little Burgundian town of Reigny-sur-Canne. Katherine is a talented artist, and she has been invited to take a leading role in the annual Feast of the Assumption festival. She is also concerned about her husband’s unhappy history as a musician and songwriter. Opportunities arise for him that create complexity in the story and the relationship of Katherine and Michael. It seems that his luck may be changing, but we–and Katherine–are not so sure about that

The second voice we hear from, more rarely, is that of the beautiful 15-year-old Jeannette. This lovely young girl with the halo of golden curls is attractive to more than one male resident, while she naively juggles her romantic fantasies with the effects of her adolescent hormones. In her confusion she is placing herself in more peril than she realizes; we fear for her recklessness in the face of unknown danger. For Jeannette sees a lot, and keeps much to herself. When she does share what she has observed, the adults around her to not take heed, despite our urgent mental messages to her listeners to Pay Attention to Her!

When Albert, noted owner of the village chateau, is found dead at the bottom of a steep staircase, Kathleen’s bid for social acceptance and a settled life for herself and Michael becomes enmeshed in the drama surrounding this death. Was it just a tragic accident, or are there darker forces at work? There are plenty of scenarios put forth by the villagers, further fueled by the efforts of Pippa, a would-be Agatha Christie, to turn the local happenings into fodder for her first book. There is a tasty offering of participants in the story–but who are the heroes and who are the bad guys? Katherine finds that question increasingly difficult to answer.

We care about these narrators, Katherine and Jeannette, and we become increasingly uneasy with what they are encountering. The story is infused with French wine, cheese, history, and plenty of atmosphere. The climactic scene is a gem. Ms. Shea has given us an intriguing and edgy tale to savor.

My thanks to Shailynn Tavella of Minotaur books for providing an advance copy for me to read and review.

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