Murder on the Île Sordou

This cozy murder mystery (320 pages) was published in September of 2014 by Penguin Books. The book takes you to a posh hotel on an island near Marseille. Melissa read Murder on the Île Sordou and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.

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Murder on the Île Sordou

M.L. Longworth

This charming, cozy murder mystery is the next best thing to shirking all your responsibilities right now to board a plane bound for the south of France.

Imagine you’re in Marseille. It’s a cloudless, sunny day. The light sparkles on the deep blue Mediterranean as you step into a boat to cruise to an island off the coast. The wind is in your hair, and as Marseille fades into the distance, you secretly observe the other passengers. You’re all on your way to the grand re-opening of the Locanda Sourdou resort. As you approach the island, you see a pink hotel with curving balconies on top of a hill.

This is the setting for cocktails, gossip, romance, and murder.

Our hero is Antoine Verlaque, a judge in Aix-en-Provence. Conveniently wealthy, thanks to his inheritance of the family flour mill, he’s never far from his lady love, Marine Bonnet, a law professor. They’re glamorous, flirtatious, and far too curious to avoid getting involved when crime comes calling.

While sipping champagne in the hotel’s retro-‘60s cocktail lounge, they meet the other guests and staff. There’s an American couple that’s very aw-shucks about the hotel and the scenery — and a Parisian couple that is decidedly not. A famous actor, now past his prime, is already causing drama with his latest wife and her troubled son. A retired French teacher and wannabe poet rounds out the group, reciting unprompted verse from Frank O’Hara. Plus, staff with their own quirky personalities.

Early on, there are hints of trouble to come: petty arguments, the young boy goes missing, and a creepy lighthouse keeper shows up in the middle of dinner, mumbling cryptically. Then, because it’s the reason we’re all here, someone is murdered. Naturally, everyone except Antoine and Marine is suspect.

Author M.L. Longworth executes the tropes of a closed-circle-of-suspects mystery with aplomb. The characters are well-drawn and have strong motivations, so they’re all legitimately suspicious. Like a deranged version of Clue, the action gets a bit farcical even while the investigation shines light into dark places. Then there’s another death.

Throughout, there’s playful banter between Antoine and Marine, holiday-worthy scenery, and the revelation of hidden secrets from the past. It ends with a classic reveal, with guests and staff gathered in the bar to hear how it all went down.

Monnier’s eyes watered as he looked at Marseille. He had always loved the port, its golden stone medieval forts protecting the harbor, and the fortress-like church, Saint-Victor, lovelier in its simplicity than the elaborate nineteenth-century Notre Dame de la Garde. He turned to his right and saw the bunkers, built by Germans during World War II, on the hill below the Pharo Palace. As kids they had played around the bunkers, until getting chased away by a Pharo guard. As the boat went farther out on the sea, more of Marseille came into view: the private swimming club just beyond the bunkers… and beyond that, the three-star Passédat restaurant. — M.L. Longworth

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