Commissaire Georges Dupin is originally Parisian, but he is enjoying his relocation to Brittany. He is sitting in a cafe with his morning coffee when he is summoned to Pont-Aven, where the 90-year-old owner of the Central Hotel was stabbed to death in the bar. It was Pierre-Louis Pennec’s habit to spend the evening there, sometimes with other people, sometimes alone. The death happened after the restaurant was closed.
No one at the hotel reports anything unusual. Pennec’s life revolved around the hotel, which had been in the family for generations. His grandmother had helped build Pont-Aven’s reputation as an artists’ haven by supporting artists, the most famous of whom was Gaugain. Copies of their paintings hang throughout the restaurant. The only unusual thing Dupin and his team can discover is that Pennec was told that week that he would not live long.
Under suspicion are Pennec’s son and daughter-in-law, but they seem to have no motive. Also under suspicion is Pennec’s estranged half-brother.
The night after the murder someone breaks into the restaurant. But to all appearances, nothing was taken or has changed.
I was reading an advance copy and was at first put off by the writing, which was not stellar, particularly overuse of the word “very.” But these problems may be resolved in the published version. One thing Bannelec attempts is to illustrate the beauties of Brittany. Most of this material was interesting, and I appreciated the effort, even though sometimes the novel reads like a travel guide. But I have criticized other novels for not providing a sense of the location, and this one certainly attempts to do so.
The characters aren’t particularly distinctive. I kept confusing two of Dupin’s inspectors and several of the suspects. So, overall, I would rate this novel as just average.