As Pierre, one of the cigar club members who isn't independently wealthy, muses as he drinks fine champagne, "He closed his eyes and sipped, as if he was enjoying every bubble, and in fact he was. Bookstores didn't — couldn't — pay well, and being in the cigar club was his sole luxury. He repeatedly told himself that he would happily eat beans and rice all week in order to smoke hand-rolled Cuban cigars once a month with his group of friends." It's all about priorities. Longworth, like author Alexander McCall Smith, is good at writing about the little things that make life worthwhile, that indeed should be the bigger things in life.
Longworth also brings Aix-en-Provence to vivid life. Men and women greet each other, regardless of sex, with the bises, the double-kiss to each cheek. Cafe life is life. Shopping for the latest style, and paying great attention to one's appearance, is also part of the routine. For anyone who has traveled to the south of France Death at the Chateau Bremont will be especially enjoyable, as the reader gets to join Longworth's characters as they stroll the Cours Mirabeau.
Aix was not my favorite place to visit when I was in the south of France, so I was as happy as the character of Marine when they escaped the land-locked city, which is loomed over by Cezanne's famed Mont Ste. Victoire, and headed for Cannes and Nice. The author was just as at home there, describing the terrible traffic but wonderful sights, such as villas overlooking the ocean, and landmarks like the Hotels Carlton and Negresco and Old Nice.
Verlaque and Bonnet are both complex personalities, and the course of their true love is not likely to run smoothly, but in Death at the Chateau Bremont and, I'm sure, subsequent novels, the reader will want to join them as they eat and drink and solve their way through a mystery in Provence. You might want to crack open a bottle of wine, or make a cup of espresso and pick up some brioches — but make sure they are good ones, or the food snob Verlaque would not approve — before settling down to read this entertaining mystery.