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The Charlemagne Connection by R M Cartmel

Cote-de-Nuits region of Burgundy, France

Cote-de-Nuits region of Burgundy, France

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Charlemagne Connection” is the second in Cartmel’s Commander Charlemagne Truchaud series set in the Cote de Nuits region of Burgundy, France.  The second book picks up just months after the last book’s action.

A young German who spends a season in the vineyards of the Truchaud’s LaForge neighbors disappears without a trace.  No one thinks anything about it until the RV park where the young man’s camper has been sitting abandoned asks the gendarmerie of Nuits-St-Georges to investigate.  That leads to a visit from the German man’s sister and her best friend from Chemnitz, Germany.  Truchaud finds an excuse to recall his trusty team member from Paris, Sergeant Natalie Dutoit, because she speaks and understands German better than anyone locally and can communicate with the two German girls.  The return of Natalie rekindles the love interest that Truchaud feels and continually tries to hide.  Truchaud’s extended absense from the Paris Division of the National Police also seems to be placing his long term prospects as a commander in that force in jeapardy.  His divisional commander formally lends him out to the local gendarmerie seeing as how the person Truchaud killed in the last book was the crooked local police chief.

The Charlemagne Connection” feels like a continuation of a long and evolving story about the Truchaud family, their neighbors the Laforge’s.  Rather like the J.A. Jance characters it is easy to get wound up in the lives of Cartmel’s main characters and to look forward to new installments, just as one would look forward to receiving news about the developments in the lives of one’s own family and friends.  I will look forward to the next installment to find out what happens to Truchaud’s responsibilities in Paris, his relationship with Natalie, the health and condition of his father who has Alzheimer’s, and now also the budding relationship between Dagmar Witter and winemaker Simon Marechale.

That being said, I felt that “The Charlemagne Connection” dragged a bit in parts compared to the very intense and action-filled “Richebourg Affair.”  The excuse made for bringing back Natalie was a little improbable.  I don’t see a busy police force letting a brand new, up-and-coming sergeant head out on a remote assignment so soon after promotion.  This installment is more police procedural and less thriller than the last book.

I did enjoy “The Charlemagne Connection” for the most part, because it rekindled an interest in this particular group of characters, the winemaking industry, and this particular part of France and I look forward to the next chapter in the lives of the Truchaud and Laforge families.

Liz Nichols

(Reviewed from a supplied copy.)

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Champagne: The Farewell by Janet Hubbard

Champagne” is the first of Hubbard’s “A Vengeance in the Vineyard Mystery” series. Janet Hubbard says that this book is the result of about 20 years of frequent trips from her home in Vermont to France, and especially to the wine-making regions of Champagne and Bordeaux.

This gem is set in the Champagne region of France and features French inspector, Olivier Chaumont and Max McGuire, a female detective from the New York Police Department.  They meet at the wedding of Max’s best friend, Chloe, which turns into a disaster when Chloe’s aunt, Lea is discovered murdered.  Lea ran one of France’s leading wineries. The higher-ups in Paris decide to match up Olivier with Max to investigate, and Olivier later learns that his boss is Max’s uncle whom she has never met. (Max’s mother is French.)

Suspicion revolves around almost every member of the wedding party and some of the guests.  The winemaker is worried that Lea is about to kick him out of the house that he had been given to use indefinitely.  The guest from Germany, Hans, arrived with a large amount of cash presumably to buy the winery from Lea and learns that Lea has changed her mind.  Chloe’s new husband wants to solidify his power within the company and avenge the slights that his mother, Genevieve, suffered after the war from members of Lea and Chloe’s family.  Marc and his friends, the investigators discovered, were using cocaine during the post-wedding celebration.  Did they commit murder in order to avoid being discovered?

This combination vineyard cosy, police procedural contains enough twists and turns to please most mystery readers.  I certainly started dreaming of a trip to the champagne region of France after this book, although I would have liked to have had even more description of the region in the book.

I did find the number of characters and their interrelationships a little confusing.  It took awhile to get all these relationships.  Once I got over the relationship hurdle about half way through the book I enjoyed seeing the two detectives work together (and sometimes separately) to solve what eventually became two murders.  I look forward to finding out if Max and Olivier will be paired again in another mystery.

Liz Nichols

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