salt of the earth

When Commissaire Georges Dupin followed up on a tip to look for blue plastic barrels in the salt marshes, he was really just using it as an excuse to get out of the office. He'd just spent five weeks buried in paperwork, and even though the marshes weren't in his jurisdiction, they were close to a restaurant he remembered fondly. Very fondly. And he didn't really expect to find anything. 

But then he got shot at. 

After hours of lying quietly on the floor of a small hut and desperately trying to get service on his cell phone, Dupin finally gets through to someone to call the local police for him. And then the real investigation begins. 

The salt farms are in the White Land, the part of Brittany where fleur de sel comes from, and when Dupin and the local Commissaire, Sylvaine Rose, realize what the blue barrels could mean, the investigation intensifies. They're food-grade plastic, so they could be used to smuggle things. They could be used to hide evidence of a crime. Or they could hold every day, ordinary drinking water, water that when added to the salt marshes could potentially sabotage the salt enough for a farmer to lose an entire harvest.

Dupin's tipster friend, a journalist, didn't give him any information about what the barrels were being used for, and his efforts to get in touch with her fail. It doesn't take long for him to find out why--she'd been killed. Commissaires Dupin and Rose try to figure out what is really going on in the in the salt marshes, to solve the crime, to catch the killer, and to protect the fleur de sel industry. 

The Fleur de Sel Murders is the third in Jean-Luc Bannalec's Brittany Mystery series, and I don't feel like I can recommend this book until you understand a couple of things about it. First, the way Bannalec uses descriptive language makes you want to catch the next international flight and find out for yourself if the harvested salt really does smell like violets or if the colors really do get brighter as you get closer to those sea breezes from the Atlantic Ocean. The way he talks about the food, the way he talks about the Brittany coast, the flowers, the seafood, the people--you will find yourself longing to (if you're like me and have not yet been to France) go home to a place you've never been before. 

The second thing you need to realize is that you will learn more about salt than you ever realized was possible. You might start giving your boring old table salt sideways glances, wondering about the magic of the genuine fleur de sels from Brittany. You might bore your friends with your information. You might find yourself spending more money on salt than you ever expected to. And you might find out that food really does taste better with the right seasoning. 

And if you decide to take this journey to Brittany, you'll have read a magnificent police procedural set in a truly magical place, written by a man who can paint a stunning landscape with his words. It's the perfect vacation for anyone who can't afford that French vacation. Yet. 


Galleys for The Fleur de Sel Murders were provided by St. Martin's Press through NetGalley, with many thanks.