The story begins in February, 2003. Marc Fraysse is the owner/chef of a Michelin 3-star restaurant and auberge (inn). Marc is a man of routine and every afternoon he runs the same route, never varying it on any day. On this day in February, a gaggle of newspaper reporters have gathered to hear what Marc himself had described as a significant statement about the future of his restaurant. Rumors have been circulating that Marc may be losing one of the stars awarded by the restaurant guide. A restaurant must be consistently exceptional to get three stars from the French dining Bible. To lose a star “…would have been everything. Everything he had dedicated his life to achieve. It would have been shocking, humiliating, devastating.”
But Marc is late returning from his run, leaving the press restive. His wife, Elisabeth, and his brother, Guy, find him dead. There is no evidence, there are no suspects. For seven years the death of Marc Fraysse has remained a mystery.
Enzo Macleod had been a very highly regarded forensic scientist until a family commitment required that he leave Scotland and move to France. Enzo has been enjoying his life and his appointment as a professor at the university. Then Roger Raffin wrote a book, detailing seven murders that the police have not been able to solve. Enzo made a wager with Raffin that he could solve the murders and now Enzo finds himself, over seven years later, looking into the circumstances of Marc Fraysse’s murder. This is the fifth murder from Raffin’s book that Enzo has taken on, solving the first four. Much is expected of this unusual Scottish forensics expert.
When Enzo arrives, he sets off to meet with Dominique Chazal, the gendarme who had been first on the scene when Marc’s body was found. It was discovered in a small building, a shelter for shepherds caught in bad weather. The evidence was clear that Marc Fraysse had been murdered.
Although Marc was the genius in the kitchen, Guy, an accountant, had joined the business when Marc won the third Michelin star. The restaurant had also been designated the fifth best restaurant on the planet. When Marc died, the sous chef, the second chef in charge, knew enough about Marc’s recipes to keep the business going, even maintaining the third star. There didn’t seem to be any enemies in Marc’s life unless a few chefs were counted. What was the motive? Who hated him so much?
As Enzo investigates Marc’s life, he finds some inconsistencies in the stories he has been told about the genius of the kitchen. There were experiences in Marc’s past that could have carried ill-will into his seemingly perfect life. Enzo isn’t sure where to look. Elisabeth and Guy are cooperative, although Elisabeth is protective of her husband’s memory, but Enzo hasn’t found that necessary hook from which to hang his theories. Then, coming back to the auberge late one night, Enzo is nearly killed. He doesn’t know what he knows that is so dangerous but clearly someone wants to make sure Enzo doesn’t live to make the connection.
This is the fifth of the seven Enzo files as established by the author. I hope he finds a way to keep Enzo busy beyond that seventh case. Enzo is a likeable man. His personal life is complicated. He has two adult daughters who are half-sisters and he has an infant son to whom the mother has refused Enzo access. He doesn’t even know the baby’s name. These complications are part of the story and, although they don’t add to the mystery of Marc Fraysse’s murder, they are interesting and they move the characters forward.
The Enzo files are worth reading. These aren’t books with copious amounts of blood and violence. They are quick to read and enjoyable along with it.