The Mystery of the Lost Cezanne (A Provençal Mystery)

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9780143128076: The Mystery of the Lost Cezanne (A Provençal Mystery)

The fifth entry in this acclaimed series finds Verlaque and Bonnet searching for a murderer—in a crime tied to Provences greatest artist

The latest book in the Verlaque & Bonnet Mystery series, The Curse of La Fontaine, is available now from Penguin Books!


A friend in his cigar club asks Antoine Verlaque to visit René Rouquet, a retired postal worker who has found a rolled-up canvas in his apartment. As the apartment once belonged to Paul Cézanne, Rouquet is convinced he’s discovered a treasure. But when Antoine arrives at the apartment, he finds René dead, the canvas missing, and a mysterious art history professor standing over the body.

When the painting is finally recovered, the mystery only deepens. The brushwork and color all point to Cézanne. But who is the smiling woman in the painting? She is definitely not the dour Madame Cézanne. Who killed René? Who stole the painting? And what will they do to get it back?

Like Donna Leon and Andrea Camilleri, M. L. Longworth’s enchanting mysteries blend clever whodunits with gustatory delights and the timeless romance of Provence. The Mystery of the Lost Cézanne adds a new twist by immersing Antoine and Marine in a clever double narrative that costars Provence’s greatest artist.

“Art theft is a hot topic on the mystery scene, and no one’s heist is livelier than Longworth’s.” —Kirkus Reviews

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About the Author:

M. L. Longworth has lived in Aix-en-Provence since 1997. She has written about the region for the Washington Post, the Times (London), the Independent(London), and Bon Appétit. She is the author of a bilingual collection of essays,Une Américaine en Provence. She divides her time between Aix and Paris, where she teaches writing at NYU’s Paris campus.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Praise for M. L. Longworth

Also by M. L. Longworth

About the Author

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Author’s Note

Chapter One: La Fête des Rois

Chapter Two: Pierre’s Request

Chapter Three: Manon

Chapter Four: A Short Story, a Photograph, and a Painting

Chapter Five: The Neighbors Make Tea

Chapter Six: Paul

Chapter Seven: Cézanne’s Apples and Pears

Chapter Eight: Dr. Anatole Bonnet Lends a Hand, and Eye

Chapter Nine: I Should Like to Astonish Paris with an Apple

Chapter Ten: Manon and Cézanne

Chapter Eleven: La Sale Peinture

Chapter Twelve: Antoine Verlaque Invites Officer Schoelcher for a Beer

Chapter Thirteen: Commissioner Paulik, Charmed

Chapter Fourteen: A Family of Three

Chapter Fifteen: Beauty Is a Complex Subject

Chapter Sixteen: Anatole Bonnet Drives—Very Slowly—to the Luberon

Chapter Seventeen: Le Mas des Lilas

Chapter Eighteen: Edmund Lydgate’s Prognosis

Chapter Nineteen: Dedans/Dehors

Chapter Twenty: Granet’s Bright Clouds

Chapter Twenty-one: A Game of Xs and Os

Chapter Twenty-two: At Home, on the Rue des Petits Pères

Chapter Twenty-three: Alain Flamant’s Frustration

Chapter Twenty-four: A Meeting in a Japanese Garden

Chapter Twenty-five: Teppanyaki

Chapter Twenty-six: A Visit to Cézanne’s Studio

Chapter Twenty-seven: Breakfast, Alone, in a Banquet Room

Chapter Twenty-eight: Cézanne Paints Manon

Chapter Twenty-nine: Visits to Two Well-Appointed Apartments

Chapter Thirty: M. Verlaque Senior Ventures Beyond the Place des Vosges

Chapter Thirty-one: Jamel à la Conduite

Chapter Thirty-two: Poring Over Amandine’s Notebooks

Chapter Thirty-three: Just Answer Yes or No

Chapter Thirty-four: Le Fou Is Identified

Chapter Thirty-five: Love and Loss

Chapter Thirty-six: Verlaque Visits Cézanne’s Grave

Author’s Note

Paul Cézanne did have an affair “with a mysterious Aixoise” in 1885, a curiosity I first read in a New Yorker article, later confirmed when rereading Paul Cézanne: Letters, edited by John Rewald in 1976. Cézanne’s good friends Émile Zola and Philippe Solari did, of course, exist, but all the others have been invented by the author.

Chapter One

La Fête des Rois

January was his favorite month. He loved Provençal winters; they were cold and dry, often with bright-blue skies. The ancient plane trees—so essential in summer to block the sun—now, without their fat leaves, looked like tall knobby sculptures. But their winter bareness revealed the Cours Mirabeau’s soft golden architecture: mansions of the seventeenth century, now banks, law offices, cafés, and the twenty-first-century addition of American chain stores. But most of all, January meant that the commercialism and strain of Christmas was over, and the routine of work, cigar club, and being with Marine could begin anew. This year he would be a better boss, a better friend, a better lover. Or try to. Like hitting the refresh button on my computer, he thought.

Antoine Verlaque paused in the middle of the Cours, leaned against one of the trees—its multicolored gray and pale-green bark like army fatigues—and relit his cigar. He slowly puffed on his Partagas, and while he smoked he watched his fellow Aixois filing up and down the wide avenue. Three teenage girls—with identical haircuts and expensive, giant leather purses—walked arm in arm, speaking so quickly that it was near to impossible for him to eavesdrop. There was something about the trio that reminded Verlaque of his own youth, spent in Paris; perhaps it was their obvious wealth—always flaunted in Aix, and in certain arrondissements in Paris—or their easiness with one another, their self-assuredness. He had had friends just like these girls in high school, but their faces were now a blur. What remained were their names, names that reflected their parents’ good taste and education, or their Catholicism: Victoire, Mazarine, Josephine, Marie-Clothilde.

An old woman came in the opposite direction. She appeared to be wearing her slippers and bathrobe. Verlaque felt his chest tighten in sadness; when she got closer he was relieved to see that she was wearing a winter coat, albeit flimsy and weather-beaten. But she was indeed wearing her slippers.

She stopped to take a rest, and leaning on her cane she looked up at the judge and smiled. “Bonne journée, monsieur,” she said slowly and carefully. Her accent was Parisian, educated.

Bonne journée, madame,” Verlaque answered, smiling and slightly bowing in respect.

The woman took a deep breath and looked up at the sky. “Blue, and clear,” she said.

“The only blue sky in France today,” Verlaque answered. “I looked at the weather report earlier this morning.” He stopped himself from adding “on my computer.” Verlaque imagined she had an old boxy television in the corner of a room, the kind with a rabbit-ear antenna.

“Humph,” she replied, clicking her teeth. She readjusted her cane to get ready to walk on. “And Christmas is finally over.”

Verlaque laughed out loud. “Thankfully.”

She nodded in lieu of saying good-bye, and walked away. Verlaque turned to watch her go, and he wondered where she lived. Was her apartment a small, squalid bed-sit? Or was she an eccentric noblewoman, who lived with too many cats in a grand bourgeois hôtel particulier? One thing was clear to him, though: she lived alone. At least his parents still had each other—even if they rarely spoke—and a team of servants to look after them.

He walked on, heading south on the cobblestoned side of the Cours, toward his favorite pâtisserie. A couple walked toward him and he tried not to frown. They were the sort of Aixois couple he despised: she, too thin, too made-up, and sporting the same haircut and expensive bag as the teenage girls. She walked on impossibly high heels, and pushed a baby buggy almost as big as his 1961 Porsche. Verlaque couldn’t imagine how she interacted with the infant inside; it was an accessory. He realized he was probably being unfair. Try to be a better person, Antoine.

Usually he looked in peoples’ eyes to grasp something of their character, but husband and wife both wore enormous sunglasses, the kind that made the wearer look like a fly. Dolce & Gabbana. They both had the same colored, streaked hair (or was it possible to have natural hair with a dozen shades of red and blond?), and he wore a leather motorcycle jacket that was covered in brand names and insignias. Verlaque tried not to be angered by their obvious posing; he knew that Marine hardly noticed others around her. He took a drag of his cigar and vowed to be more inward thinking, like Marine.

“Another damn resolution,” he mumbled. And then he saw the queue. “What the—?”

A lineup, at least twenty people long, flowed out of Michaud’s and onto the sidewalk. Verlaque pulled out his cell phone and checked the date. “Merde!” The phone then rang and he answered it, almost yelling. “Oui!

“Good morning, sir. Am I interrupting you?”

“No, no,” Verlaque answered. “Sorry, Bruno. I’m standing on the Cours, hungry, in front of Michaud’s, and forgot that it was January sixth.”

Aix-en-Provence’s commissioner laughed and then coughed. “Sorry, sir. Are people queuing up to buy their galettes des rois?”

“Of course they are!” Verlaque said as he got in line. “Do people actually like those things?”

Bruno Paulik coughed again. “Well,” he said, “yeah.”

“I just want a brioche; I didn’t have time for breakfast,” Verlaque said. “I’ll be a while getting back.”

“Sir,” Paulik began, “since you’re in the queue—”

“You want a brioche, too? No problem.”

“No, actually,” Paulik said, “I’d promised Hélène and Léa that I’d buy them a galette, for this evening.”

Oh mon dieu,” Verlaque said.

“A medium-size one will do,” Paulik said, ignoring Verlaque’s comment. “Don’t forget the paper crown,” he continued. “Léa will go berserk if there isn’t the crown.”

“I know about the crown, Bruno,” Verlaque said, inching forward toward the shop’s front door. He stepped up onto the first step of the shop and set his cigar on the window ledge, planning on picking it up on his way out. The smell of butter and warm sugar made his stomach growl. “I can’t remember the last time I had a galette des rois. I’ve never cared for almond paste—”

“In fact,” Paulik continued, as if he hadn’t heard a word, “we’re having a Fête des Rois this afternoon at the Palais de Justice; I forgot to tell you.”

Verlaque held his cell phone away from his ear and looked at it, bewildered at his rugby-playing commissioner’s enthusiasm.

Paulik continued, “And Léa asked me this morning if you and Marine could come to our place tonight to celebrate.”

Verlaque smiled, touched by Léa’s earnest invitation. But the thought of having to eat an almond paste pie, twice in one day, turned his stomach over. “We’d love to come,” he found himself answering, thinking of Léa Paulik’s bright ten-year-old face. “I have my cigar club tonight, but I can show up late.”

“Great. How was court this morning?”

“Well worth our effort, Bruno,” Verlaque answered. “Kévin Malongo will be behind bars for the next twenty years.”

“Perfect. See you soon.”

Verlaque was finally inside Michaud’s. Stainless steel racks had been pulled out of the back room and filled the interior of the shop, each one stacked high with the flaky galettes. Those customers still in line strained to see the cakes, already selecting their favorite. Verlaque winced; they all looked the same to him. Other customers, ahead in the queue, pointed to their chosen cake, and a black-and-white-uniformed Michaud salesgirl carefully lifted the cake and placed it in a shiny red box. The prices Verlaque could hear being rung in at the cash register astounded him. Thirty euros? There was just a bean hidden in the cake, not a bloody diamond. And why was there going to be a party at the Palais de Justice this afternoon? He tried to picture his group of police officers, gathered around the cakes, with the youngest officer—Jules?—sitting cross-legged under his desk, calling out names. Verlaque sighed; sometimes he loved the traditions of his country, and sometimes . . .

Monsieur le juge?” a saleswoman asked. Verlaque recognized her; she had been working at Michaud’s as long as he could remember. She obviously knew him, too.

Un galette des rois, s’il vous plaît, et deux brioches,” he answered.

“Which one?” she asked.

Verlaque looked at the cakes. The ones lower down looked too small, and he eliminated the cakes that looked lopsided or messy. The saleswoman shifted her weight and he finally pointed to one on the top shelf. If they were to be five that evening, Léa would want a big cake. “Don’t forget the crown!” he called after her.

 · · · 

Natalie Chazeau had been watching Antoine Verlaque from the window. L’Agence de la Ville was Aix-en-Provence’s most luxurious real estate office, or it had been until that summer when John Taylor Realtors opened a branch across the street. Mme Chazeau, a handsome, tall woman in her early seventies, was the company’s owner, and had built it up from scratch with her husband, who had died of a heart attack twenty years earlier. They were young newlyweds when they bought the office, prestigiously located on the Cours Mirabeau, and for years had lived frugally while paying back the loan. It was now worth a fortune.

Mme Chazeau was adding new color photographs of two estates for sale—one just outside of Aix and the other in the Luberon—in the office’s large plate-glass window, where the Aixois could stroll by, see the photos, stop, and dream. People who ended up buying estates sold by L’Agence de la Ville rarely did so by seeing the photographs in the windows; more often than not they hired scouts to find them the perfect (often second or third) home. But the agency was known for its window display, as was Pâtisserie Michaud across the street, whose queue Verlaque was now impatiently standing in.

She pinned up the last photograph and looked at the judge, who had his head bent, speaking on his cell phone while trying to puff on a cigar. The queue moved slowly. He reminded her of her only child, Christophe, a friend of the judge’s and a fellow cigar smoker, who had recently moved to Paris to open his own agency. Had she been a younger woman she would have done everything she could to work her way into Antoine Verlaque’s arms. But those days were over, and she knew that the judge saw her as others did—a distinguished, hard-working old woman who probably dyed her thick black hair (she didn’t). She looked at Verlaque’s wide back, clothed in a black coat that she guessed was cashmere, and she reached up and twisted one of her diamond earrings—a gift from Christophe.

Her office phone rang and she answered it, and by the time it got dark, just before 6:00 p.m., she had had more than fifteen calls. She left her office and told Julie, her secretary, that she could leave for the day. Mme Chazeau herself would lock up after tonight’s meeting. She thanked Julie for her hard work, adjusted the thin wool scarf around the young girl’s neck, and then stood looking out the glass door at the lineup across the street. The judge had long gone; she hadn’t seen how many cakes he had bought. Mme Chazeau wished she could go home, put on her slippers, call her half brother Franz, and tell him about Michaud’s famed galettes des rois. But tonight she would be working, hosting a meeting of apartment owners who owned flats in the four-story apartment at 23 rue Boulegon. There had been a time, when sales were easier to get, that she had refused to work as a syndic. Smaller, less prestigious Realtors could take on the headache of dealing with the often-daily problems in running a small apartment building. Especially apartments that had been built in old Aix and were themselves often more than five hundred years old. But finding clients—French or foreign—to buy estates worth more than two million euros was getting harder to do, so she agreed to represent the owners at 23 rue Boulegon, if only for the prestige: it was a beautiful, well-kept building, and it had been Paul Cézanne’s last residence.

A thud brought her out of her reverie; René Rouquet had walked into the glass door. Startled, she opened the door. “M. Rouquet,” she said, “you should walk with your head up. Welcome. You’re the first here.”

Rouquet mumbled a good evening, walked in with his head still down, and stood with his back to Julie’s marble-topped desk, fidgeting with his wool hat. Mme Chazeau smiled, pleased that the gruff retired postman had remembered his manners and removed his hat. The tiny bell that hung above the door rang again and she turned around; it seemed that the rest of the owners had all arrived at the same time: Pierre Millot, who came with the new owners of his top-floor apartment, a young couple whom Mme Chazeau hadn’t yet met; Dr. Pitavy, a podiatrist who owned a two-room offic...

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Book Description Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2015. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 5 ed.. Language: English . Brand New Book. The fifth entry in this acclaimed series finds Verlaque and Bonnet searching for a murderer--in a crime tied to Provence s greatest artist The latest book in the Verlaque Bonnet Mystery series, The Curse of La Fontaine, is available now from Penguin Books! A friend in his cigar club asks Antoine Verlaque to visit Rene Rouquet, a retired postal worker who has found a rolled-up canvas in his apartment. As the apartment once belonged to Paul Cezanne, Rouquet is convinced he s discovered a treasure. But when Antoine arrives at the apartment, he finds Rene dead, the canvas missing, and a mysterious art history professor standing over the body. When the painting is finally recovered, the mystery only deepens. The brushwork and color all point to Cezanne. But who is the smiling woman in the painting? She is definitely not the dour Madame Cezanne. Who killed Rene? Who stole the painting? And what will they do to get it back? Like Donna Leon and Andrea Camilleri, M. L. Longworth s enchanting mysteries blend clever whodunits with gustatory delights and the timeless romance of Provence. The Mystery of the Lost Cezanne adds a new twist by immersing Antoine and Marine in a clever double narrative that costars Provence s greatest artist. Art theft is a hot topic on the mystery scene, and no one s heist is livelier than Longworth s. --Kirkus Reviews. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780143128076

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Book Description Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2015. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 5 ed.. Language: English . Brand New Book. The fifth entry in this acclaimed series finds Verlaque and Bonnet searching for a murderer--in a crime tied to Provence s greatest artist The latest book in the Verlaque Bonnet Mystery series, The Curse of La Fontaine, is available now from Penguin Books! A friend in his cigar club asks Antoine Verlaque to visit Rene Rouquet, a retired postal worker who has found a rolled-up canvas in his apartment. As the apartment once belonged to Paul Cezanne, Rouquet is convinced he s discovered a treasure. But when Antoine arrives at the apartment, he finds Rene dead, the canvas missing, and a mysterious art history professor standing over the body. When the painting is finally recovered, the mystery only deepens. The brushwork and color all point to Cezanne. But who is the smiling woman in the painting? She is definitely not the dour Madame Cezanne. Who killed Rene? Who stole the painting? And what will they do to get it back? Like Donna Leon and Andrea Camilleri, M. L. Longworth s enchanting mysteries blend clever whodunits with gustatory delights and the timeless romance of Provence. The Mystery of the Lost Cezanne adds a new twist by immersing Antoine and Marine in a clever double narrative that costars Provence s greatest artist. Art theft is a hot topic on the mystery scene, and no one s heist is livelier than Longworth s. --Kirkus Reviews. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780143128076

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Book Description Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2015. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 5 ed.. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. The fifth entry in this acclaimed series finds Verlaque and Bonnet searching for a murderer--in a crime tied to Provence s greatest artist The latest book in the Verlaque Bonnet Mystery series, The Curse of La Fontaine, is available now from Penguin Books! A friend in his cigar club asks Antoine Verlaque to visit Rene Rouquet, a retired postal worker who has found a rolled-up canvas in his apartment. As the apartment once belonged to Paul Cezanne, Rouquet is convinced he s discovered a treasure. But when Antoine arrives at the apartment, he finds Rene dead, the canvas missing, and a mysterious art history professor standing over the body. When the painting is finally recovered, the mystery only deepens. The brushwork and color all point to Cezanne. But who is the smiling woman in the painting? She is definitely not the dour Madame Cezanne. Who killed Rene? Who stole the painting? And what will they do to get it back? Like Donna Leon and Andrea Camilleri, M. L. Longworth s enchanting mysteries blend clever whodunits with gustatory delights and the timeless romance of Provence. The Mystery of the Lost Cezanne adds a new twist by immersing Antoine and Marine in a clever double narrative that costars Provence s greatest artist. Art theft is a hot topic on the mystery scene, and no one s heist is livelier than Longworth s. --Kirkus Reviews. Bookseller Inventory # BTE9780143128076

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Book Description Penguin Books. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Paperback. 320 pages. The fifth entry in this acclaimed series finds Verlaque and Bonnet investigating a murder and the provenance of a mysterious painting Like Donna Leon and Andrea Camilleri, M. L. Longworths enchanting mystery series blends clever whodunits with gustatory delights and the timeless appeal of Provence. The Mystery of the Lost Czanne adds a new twist by immersing Antoine and Marine in a clever double narrative that costars Provences greatest artist. A friend in his cigar club asks Antoine to visit Ren Rouquet, a retired postal worker who has found a rolled-up canvas in his apartment. As the apartment once belonged to Czanne, Rouquet is convinced hes discovered a treasure. But when Antoine arrives at the apartment, he finds Ren dead, the canvas missing, and a mysterious art history professor standing over the body. When the painting is finally recovered, the mystery only deepens. The brushwork and color all point to Czanne. But who is the smiling woman in the painting She is definitely not the dour Madame Czanne. Who killed Ren Who stole the painting And what will they do to get it back This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Paperback. Bookseller Inventory # 9780143128076

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