Mystery in The South of France

If ever you planned to go on a holiday to the South of France, this mystery novel is the ideal way to take yourself on a spin through all its best landscapes and cities. And when you really go there on your holiday, don’t forget to take the book along; Mary Stewart’s Madam, Will You Talk may serve as guide book and mystery novel at the same time.

Avignon


by +Lucas Dié on Books

Mary Stewart’s story starts out in the medieval city of Avignon and even includes its famous bridge as the setting of one key scene. The heroine arrives in the picturesque city at the best hotel in town. This sets her squarely into the middle of some of the main players in the mystery to be played out. Little does she know, though. Normally, when you meet a boy and a dog, they are just that, a boy and a dog. In this case, though, they bring her into a story she wouldn't want to get involved in had she had the choice.

Avignon

Once she notices that she is involved in something inexplicable and probably unsavory, she does everything to get away from that story and the people she deems are involved, all the while just embroiling herself more and more into their affairs. The heroine's various ventures give Mary Stewart the possibility to shine at what she does best: Describing scenery and all the scents the Provence has to offer.

Hyères

From Avignon, she takes her heroine over to Nimes, up to Baux, and down to Marseilles; sometimes these are leisurely outings, sometimes they are outright races over the byroads of the countryside. The final act is played out on a famously winding road to Hyeres. Her descriptions are masterly, and you will be able to find the hotel in Avignon and the many roads her heroine travels without problem. 

Hyères

The sunrise at Baux is as spectacular as she describes it, and the scents are all there, too. Marseilles has lost nothing of the hustle and bustle she makes you see, hear, and smell through her description. And Avignon and Nimes are timeless, sleepy places, almost frozen in time and yet so much alive. The road to Hyeres, finally, is one of the roads you must have traveled, the views it offers will take your breath away.

Les Baux de Provence

Madam, Will You Talk is one of her best plots, and the story opens a can of worms the French have kept tightly locked away since World War II. Part and parcel of the book's plot is the French involvement with Nazi Germany and the holocaust with the many collaborators never prosecuted or sent on trial. The resulting novel is well worth reading and will keep you entertained all the way through.

Les Baux de Provence

One of the main amusements in reading it is to follow the heroine through the many wrong assumptions which she makes on partial evidence in her possession. She is never outright wrong, because her thinking is reasonable, but she is always terribly wrong in the result she arrives at in her deliberations. By the time she starts to get to the right conclusions you really don’t trust her anymore to arrive at valid results.

Marseilles

The book was published in 1955 and has been out of print for a number of years. Now it is available on Kindle. It is Mary Stewart’s first novel to be published.