Monday, October 1, 2012

"Murder in the Rue Dumas"

M. L. Longworth has written for The Washington Post, The Times (London), The Independent, and Bon Appétit magazine. She is the author of a mystery series set in Southern France, the Verlaque and Bonnet Provençal Mysteries, published by Penguin USA. Death at the Château Bremont was published in June 2011, Murder in the Rue Dumas was released on September 25th 2012, and the third book, Death in the Vines, is set for release in July 2013.

Longworth has lived full-time in France for over fifteen years and divides her time between Aix-en-Provence, where she writes, and Paris, where she teaches writing at New York University's Paris campus.

She applied the Page 69 Test to Murder in the Rue Dumas and reported the following:
Page 69 of my second novel, Murder in the Rue Dumas, begins with police interviews of employees of Aix's university, where the elderly Dean of Theology, Dr. Georges Moutte, has just been murdered. I find these suspect interview scenes difficult to write (PD James does it effortlessly) and so I try to add amusing character or scene details to liven up what is, basically, a row of suspects on display for the reader. Half way down the page is this paragraph:
Verlaque imagined that Mlle Z. had either been planning on leaving early or was nervous about being interviewed. He left the assembly room and walked across the hall to a small office that appeared to be the kind that was used by graduate students or for small meetings. The desk was 1960s metal and in a few years would probably be considered vintage and be sold in antique stores in the sixth arrondissement in Paris. Three mismatched chairs had been placed in the room, along with a stack of paper and two pencils. Extra office supplies, most of the boxes half-opened, were stacked on the floor in a corner, as were the parts of a dusty plastic coffee machine.
This descriptive paragraph is my way of showing the dire state of France's facultés. France ambitiously offers free liberal arts education to all, but boy are the facilities in bad shape. You only need to walk by the buildings, on your way into Aix's old town, and you'll see the broken shutters, graffiti-covered walls, garbage-strewn scraggy lawns. Students who attend the literature faculty, and even the esteemed law department, tell me of overcrowded halls and class rooms, absent professors, and the general filth of the buildings. The sorry state of this small office, where Aix's examining magistrate Antoine Verlaque now sits, is in extreme contrast to Dean Moutte's lavish 18th century antique-filled apartment in the old town, and his large, well-appointed office on campus. Having been forcibly 'retired,' his successor will inherit both. Motivation for murder? I think so!
Learn more about the book and author at M. L. Longworth's website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue