Death In the Truffle Wood, Paperback
4 out of 5 (2 ratings)


In Banon, a small, peaceful village in upper Provence, the local community's principal source of income is the cultivation of truffles.

Outsiders rarely venture to this remote region, but a small group of society's drop-outs have chosen to set up home on the outskirts of the village, and trouble ensues.

When one of them is found dead in the freezer of a local hotel, and when a further five bodies are discovered drained of blood in a family vault in the cemetery, it takes all Commissaire Laviolette's considerable resources to unravel crimes that have been committed in a climate of age-old superstition and secret animosity.

Not since Jean Giono has any writer been able to capture the authentic flavour, spirit and traditions of Provence.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Publishing
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Crime & mystery
  • ISBN: 9780099470229



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Review by

Crime Fiction tends to rely on the glutton rather than the epicure – the criminals always seem to want insatiably - wealth, power, wo/men; the detectives want more and more, almost with a ferociousness, the next clue; and the readers stuff themselves to bursting with the newest publication. Tabloid details are piled high on the table and quickly consumed.Death in the Truffle Wood is, unashamedly, Crime Fiction.It does, however, nod in the direction of better cooking in that it titillates the appetite – usually with a dark humour. And there are a couple of good descriptions of the sort of food that gives the French the moral high ground over the English when it comes to ‘measuring’ cuisines.Commissaire Laviolette, is the detective Poirot might have been if Agatha Crusty had been a French intellectual instead of English ‘madam’: He likes good food, he smokes roll-ups with the class only the intelligent seem to manage, he chases women whilst he’s chasing murderers and he is, according to his bosses, none-descript – he’s given the case of the disappearing hippies because no one will notice him.He, like his author, Pierre Magnan, is Provencal – The Province – the one that gives its inhabitants the necessary passport to condescend to town dwellers everywhere, and puts the urbane in urban. Laviolette understands the countryside and country people in a way streetwise Phillip Marlowes in their brick and tarmac jungles will never grasp. There is almost an organic telepathy, an osmosis of thought and feeling flowing between the detective and the community. Clues are a concentration of flavours and scents rather than solid facts … animals play a key role in searching out these essentials – just as Roseline, the truffle hunting pig, searches and earns her keep rooting for what is essentially a parasitic fungus sucking away at the roots of healthy oak trees.Those truffles, however, feature strongly in both the cooking and the plot – and act as a metaphor for the whole genre – what, after all, is it we are searching for but the rotten feeding off the strong? What is the detective in fiction but a glorified truffle pig?That is the kind of rhetorical question you end up asking as you read – and points to an element in this book which is missing in the average pot-boiler – intellectualism. Now, I am of Anglo-Saxon stock, and, even though I’ve denied my father and changed … I haven’t gone so far as to feel comfortable with ‘intellectualism’. Intelligence I can cope with – as long as it does the occasional prat-fall and keeps itself suitably coy – but showy intellectualism is a bit ‘continental’.All I can say is, “Here it works,” – it is an integral part of the book and gives a dimension to the read which is refreshing to the jaded palate. I am not convinced though that the majority of Morse (who is only intelligent, despite his opera playing) and Barnaby (who is decidedly English Bumbling) fans will take much pleasure from the story.Of the characters that people the pages there is a real French tart – not the English sticky, sweet, ‘Queen of Hearts’, jam type, but a goat cheese, onion and truffle baked Banon original; a small, lost dachshund befriended by the pig; several braces of warring brothers; and a lightening struck old cow who terrifies all around her and gets the toughest of toughs to open doors, politely, for her. There is also mention but, infuriatingly. no development of a partnership between the local baker and the local priest.I picked up the book as an intentional anti-dote to the heavy English cooking of ‘On Chesil Beach’ – and have to say, instead of a sorbet, I got something a little more substantial – but equally invigorating.

Review by

I used to read a few cosies, although I was never totally addicted. But I've always been a huge fan of the quirky, odd and the just ever so slightly bats. Colin Watson, Charlotte MacLeod have been favourites for years. I'm adding Pierre Magnan to the list now.Originally published in French in the late 70's, DEATH IN THE TRUFFLE WOOD was translated into English around 2005. There are a number of books in this series featuring Commissaire Laviolette, although I don't think Roseline makes an appearance in any of the others. Roseline is a truffle hunting pig, and a creature that has made me pine for a pet pig in a way that you simply would not think is possible. Mind you, I never thought I'd want a dachshund either, but this book made me rethink that as well.On the outskirts of the small village of Banon, a group of outsiders have established a small hippie community. As they start to disappear Commissaire Laviolette is sent to investigate, but nobody is prepared for the discovery in the freezer of a local hotel, when a wedding party is trapped by snow and extra food is called for. (Obviously the freezer would just have to be replaced!)Soon Roseline is leading the police to a cache of more bodies, and forensic assistance is reluctantly called upon.It's going to seem an odd thing to say, what with bodies littering hotel freezers and family vaults, but there was something really joyous about reading DEATH IN THE TRUFFLE WOOD. Refreshingly down to earth, quirky, almost tongue in cheek in some places, and just plain funny, DEATH IN THE TRUFFLE WOOD draws a vivid picture of small village life and the wonderfully individualistic people that all so frequently inhabit those places. Perhaps it is partially because of that setting, but there's no feeling of the story and the environment being dated - it's easy for the reader to assume that village life continues in that manner now, and as far back into the past as you want to imagine. Along with the murders, there's a fabulous outline of the clash of cultures - the villagers and their quiet existence, the outsiders and the effect that they have. Definitely a book for readers who are looking for something light, fun and just that little bit slightly bats!

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