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The Frenchman: #5 in the Bennett Sisters Mysteries
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Merle has arranged her life and work in New York to enable an extended period of time to be at her house in the Dordogne, hoping to attack her house ‘to-do’ list as well as have time to start writing her novel and catch up with her sexy French detective Pascal. However, things don’t go to plan as one by one people and situations crop up that demand her time, attention and inquisitive mind.
Merle is independent, but gives herself 100% to help others too. She finds herself coping with vandalism, building work, a strange request from a local goat farmer’s daughter and the uncertainty of her relationship with Pascal. As with all the books there is a great sense of family and despite Pascal’s mysterious absence Merle is never alone, as her sisters are always there for each other.
There are lots of plots running alongside each other, including Merle’s story, Pascal’s story, where we get a look behind the scenes of some of the best known wine areas in France and Odette’s story, the girl in the novel Merle is writing that is set in the French Revolution. I liked this. It kept my interest as each time one story began to peak, Lise switched us to the next one, which always left me wanting more, right to the end where everything was nicely sewn up.
This is a great mystery, set among the vineyards of France and pretty golden coloured villages of the Dordogne, perfect for a late summer getaway.
As McClendon’s story opens, Merle seems to be a bit lost within herself. She’s taking an extended leave from her work as a lawyer in New York in order to go to France and get started on her novel. Merle’s son, Tristan, is growing up and heading off to college this year, and her French boyfriend, Pascal, works a job that frequently keeps them apart for long periods of time and with little communication. Upon arrival in France, Merle finds herself with tangible insecurities as well – her house has been vandalized, and she has need for a vehicle but no knowledge of how to buy.
Meanwhile, Merle begins to write her novel, Odette and the Great Fear, and McClendon includes Merle’s chapters as stand-alone chapters within The Frenchman. Writing acts as Merle’s escape: “It was so comforting to live in another world where the mundane was an afterthought, where pain was just a word, where one had control of all events, and the author was a god.” (Kindle Locations 1356-1357). This comfort is better understood later, when McClendon’s mystery comes to light as Pascal disappears.
The Frenchman is as much a mystery novel as it is an exploration into the personal life of an author. McClendon’s character, Merle, strives to build her own character, Odette, in a seemingly reflected manner of McClendon’s own efforts to dive into Merle’s character. McClendon skillfully reveals thought and emotion of her characters to her readers, and ties together Merle and Odette in a pleasant analogy.
The Frenchman is a delightful stroll through a grove of mystery, with a woven path through a light French countenance that makes for a formidable leisure read.