Review

A French Country Murder

by Peter Steiner



Peter Steiner may be familiar to you, though not as a writer. He is
a cartoonist; his work appears in such diverse publications as
The New Yorker and The Washington Times. Knowledge of
his work in his heretofore chosen profession will not prepare you
for A FRENCH COUNTRY MURDER, his first novel. This is an altogether
serious work, combining elements of Agatha Christie and Robert
Ludlum while, at the same time, striking off into different
territory.

A FRENCH COUNTRY MURDER is, more than anything else, a study of
Louis Morgon, an American expatriate living quietly in rural France
and a willing slave to the quiet routine he has constructed for
himself. That routine is shattered with the discovery of a dead
body at Morgon's literal doorstep. We learn that Morgon, a former
U.S. State Department liaison with the CIA, has a past that he
refers to as "the sordid world" and that has abruptly intruded into
his present. Morgon almost immediately knows the meaning, if not
the circumstances, that led to the placing of the body at his front
door. Steiner, during the course of A FRENCH COUNTRY MURDER,
frequently moves between Morgon's present and past, revealing how
Morgon, an up-and-comer in the State Department, came to lose his
career, his marriage and family, and live in a small French village
with his paints, his casual friendship with the village gendarme
and his affair with his next door neighbor. All of these things
will be changed with A FRENCH COUNTRY MURDER as Morgon, who has
been driven quietly but irrevocably mad by life, sets about to
trace the murder back to its source in order to prevent his own
demise.

Morgon is not the only unforgettable character Steiner creates
herein, however. Solesme Lefourier, Morgon's neighbor and paramour,
is possessed of a strength that is only hinted at through most of
this fine novel but that is demonstrated profusely by the telling
of three events: one occurring in the past and the other two in the
present. The past event, a telling of how Lefourier dealt with the
marriage of a suitor who had jilted her, is alone worth reading A
FRENCH COUNTRY MURDER. Though it takes little more than a couple of
paragraphs to relate, it has such a ring of truth to it that it
infuses the rest of the novel with a reality to which most works of
fiction only aspire.

A FRENCH COUNTRY MURDER is an unforgettable tale of mystery,
madness and romance from an unlikely source. It can only be hoped
that this novel will receive the attention, respect and success it
so deserves in order to encourage Steiner to tread further into the
waters of fiction. Very highly recommended.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011

A French Country Murder
by Peter Steiner

  • Publication Date: March 12, 2003
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 246 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books
  • ISBN-10: 0312306873
  • ISBN-13: 9780312306878