Mastering the Art of French Murder
An American in Paris #1
April 25, 2023
January 29 - March 5, 2023
Set in the City of Light and starring Julia Child’s (fictional) best friend, confidant, and fellow American, this Magnifique new historical mystery series from the acclaimed author of Murder at Mallowan Hall combines a fresh perspective on the iconic chef’s years in post-WWII Paris with a delicious mystery and a unique culinary twist. Perfect for fans of Jacqueline Winspear, Marie Benedict, and of course, Julia Child alike! As Paris rediscovers its joie de vivre, Tabitha Knight, who recently arrived from Detroit for an extended stay with her French grandfather, is on her own journey of discovery. Paris isn’t just the City of Light; it’s the city of history, romance, stunning architecture . . . and food. Thanks to her neighbour and friend Julia Child, another ex-pat who’s fallen head over heels for Paris, Tabitha is learning how to cook for her Grandpère and Oncle Rafe. Between tutoring Americans in French, visiting the market, and eagerly sampling the results of Julia’s studies at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school, Tabitha’s sojourn is proving thoroughly delightful. That is, until the cold December day they return to Julia’s building and learn that a body has been found in the cellar. Tabitha recognizes the victim as a woman she’d met only the night before, at a party given by Julia’s sister, Dort. The murder weapon found nearby is recognizable too—a knife from Julia’s kitchen. Tabitha is eager to help the investigation but is shocked when Inspector Merveille reveals that a note, in Tabitha’s handwriting, was found in the dead woman’s pocket. Is this murder a case of international intrigue, or something far more personal? From the shadows of the Tour Eiffel at midnight to the tiny third-floor Child kitchen to the grungy streets of Montmartre, Tabitha navigates through the city hoping to find the real killer before she or one of her friends ends up in prison . . . or worse.
Mastering the Art of French Murder was an uneven book for me. The introduction in the beginning was cute, but things quickly slowed down, before the book ended with a satisfying bang.
Historical fiction is hit or miss for me, and this one leans toward a miss due to the very stilted narrative. It felt as though the author knew she was writing to a modern audience and felt the need to over-explain things that didn’t need to be over-explained. Mind you, I was not alive in the 1950s when this book takes place, but I have a hard time believing anybody communicated in the way these characters often communicated.
I also felt like the author mentioned the fact that the heroine, Tabitha, was a “Rosie the Riveter” far too many times—once is enough. It was implied far too often that Tabitha “isn’t like most women”, which is an overly used trope that drives me crazy.
As far as the mystery, it dragged. The inspecteur was not developed well enough for me, which I think was the intention, but it didn’t do the book any favorites in my opinion. My guess is the author plans to slowly build him up over the couse of the series.
As far as Julie Child’s role in this book, I found it charming. It was cute the way Tabitha was terrible in the kitchen and she leaned on Julia to guide her so she could cook for her grandpère and uncle, as a thank you for allowing her to stay with them in Paris. Reading this fictional account of Julia made me interested to learn more about her actual history.
Ultimately, I think if you’re a fan of cozy mysteries and historicals, this could be the book for you. Sadly, cozy mysteries have never done it for me, and as a historical, for me this was a miss.