•Release date: August 6, 2015 at Le French Book
A small town holds fiercely onto its secrets.
In the heart of Gascony, a fire ravages the warehouse of one of Armagnacís top estates, killing the master distiller. Wine expert Benjamin Cooker is called in to estimate the value of the losses. But Cooker and his assistant Virgile want to know more. How did the old alembic explode? Was it really an accident? Why is the estate owner Baron de Castayrac penniless? How legal are his dealings? The deeper the Winemaker Detective digs, the more suspicious characters he uncovers. There is more than one disgruntled inhabitant in this small town. As we witness the time-honored process of Armagnac distillation and the day-to-day activities of the hunt, the market place, and the struggle for power and duck confit, we get a glimpse of the traditions of southwestern France where this mystery of possible arson and murder lies below the surface.
Jean-Pierre Alaux is a magazine, radio and TV journalist
when he is not writing novels in southwestern France.
He is the grandson of a winemaker
and exhibits a real passion for wine and winemaking.
For him, there is no greater common denominator than wine.
He gets a sparkle in his eye when he talks about the Winemaker Detective,
which he coauthors with NoÎl Balen.
NoÎl lives in Paris, where he shares his time between writing, making records, and lecturing on music.
He plays bass, is a music critic and has authored a number of books about musicians in addition to his novel and short-story writing.
ABOUT THE TRANSLATOR
Fumes and fire
I remember doing a wine-tasting course a number of years ago that included an Armagnac tasting. It had never occurred to me prior to that to consider Armagnac as part of the wine world, or even at all, for that matter. But, as I learned then, Armagnac is a brandy made from wine, one of two from France—the other is the much better known Cognac, from a region further north. Armagnac comes from a different region altogether, the land of the three musketeers: Gascony.
Armagnac is made from white wine grapes and distilled only once, unlike cognac which is distilled twice. After distillation it is aged in oak, and ends up being quite a complex brandy.
In the latest Winemaker Detective mystery—Flambé in Armagnac—Benjamin Cooker goes to Armagnac. As usual, I learned quite a bit about the beverage and how it is made in this mystery. For example, many distillers in Armagnac don’t own their own stills, but use roving distillers, who take their alembics from farm to farm. That seems so very old world.
As you can probably tell from the title of the book, there is clearly a fire. It takes place in an Armagnac warehouse. This brought me back to that tasting so many years back, when there was no actual fire, but just the fire-like drink. I’ll admit that I couldn’t taste more than two of them (even spitting out) and afterwards even the fumes went straight to my head. That said, for brandy lovers, the drink is quite an experience.
Anne Trager founded Le French Book to publish translations of French mysteries and thrillers in English. She is particularly fond of the Winemaker Detective series of mysteries set in French wine country. Flambé in Armagnac is the seventh in the series, but can be read as a stand alone too.
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