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Death and Croissants is the first book in a new cosy murder mystery series by debut fiction novelist and comedian Ian Moore. It is set to be published on July 1st 2021 by Farrago books.
Disclaimer: I was #gifted an ARC of this book from the publisher, but all opinions are my own.
I will happily admit to you, my dear reader, that I have a soft spot for a cosy murder mystery. In fact, cosy is my preferred type of mystery. Given that the author of this one has a background in comedy I had a good feeling that this would be just the ticket. We follow Richard, a middle-aged Englishman running a B&B in the Loire Valley, France. Things take a turn when one of his guests disappears leaving a bloody handprint on the wall, and he is convinced to investigate by Valerie, another of his guests.
With everything that is going on at the moment, I will not be going on a little holiday to France, so it was lovely to spend some time there through this book. The author himself now lives in rural France, and you can tell that he understands his setting intimately. The locations visited in this book feel delightfully authentic. The restaurants and cafes that the characters visit are exactly how I would imagine rural France to be. There is slow laziness to the locations, which contrast beautifully with the mystery itself, which feels very genuine. Moore has created, or at least depicted, a charming version of rural France where you want to spend some time getting lost or investigating a mysterious disappearance.
The plot itself, as I have already mentioned, does not adopt the slowness of the setting. It often provides quite the contrast to this setting. From the very first chapter, we are thrust straight into the mystery as the bloody handprint is discovered. Usually, we have a couple of chapters to set up the story and the characters, but Moore is not playing around. I found the suddenness made it hard for me to settle into the rest of the story, but I know that there are plenty of readers, perhaps even you, who would prefer to get straight to it. The book is under 250 pages, and once you start reading you can understand why that is.
If we examine this book in terms of its pacing, it is relatively well-paced. After the sudden beginning, it is levelled out by the fact that Richard is a reluctant detective. Valerie is the driving force behind the investigation, while Richard is not invested until his chickens are drawn into the mystery. There are plenty of quieter moments in the book that illustrate what Ricard had been expecting when he moved from England. These moments also give us a chance to explore the characters in a little more depth. Given the length of the book, there is a surprising amount of care put into the characters, especially Richard and Valarie. That said, there is always the next step to their investigation, so you never feel like the mystery has taken a backseat to a character study. If I sign up for a mystery, then I want that mystery to be prominent which I feel was true in this book.
The sharpness of the beginning came into play again with the conclusion of the book, bringing the pacing almost full circle. There are a lot of revels in the final chapter or two, and not a lot of time to absorb the information. The mystery is surprising, and especially complex given the basic set-up, but this means that you need to give your reader a minute or two to catch up. Since the ending was so pacey, I struggled a little bit to piece it all together, even as the information was being revealed piece by piece.
Richard is a film historian, and so he spends a lot of time comparing his life to classic films. This is a great way to incorporate his character into the plot and give the reader a real feel for him. There are points when he makes direct references to film, and other times where he imagines himself a part of those films in his current situation. The reason that I am bringing up this information is that the way I felt at the end of this book, is not dissimilar to the way I felt after watching The Big Sleep for the first time. I had a good time and enjoyed the vibes, but the mystery still eluded me a little as it was slightly overcomplicated.
Overall, I gave Death and Croissants three out of a possible five stars. It was an enjoyable read, and the comedy was at just the right level. However, the mystery just lost me at times where it has been overcomplicated, and not quite unravelled enough.
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