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“Beth’s back. Did you know?” She turned to face him. “As I was driving past her chalet this afternoon I noticed her car outside.”
Blind-sided momentarily by what he’d just heard, Jacques picked up his beer intending to take another drink. “No.” He put his glass back on the bar and began turning it, quarter circle by quarter circle. “No, I didn’t know that.” He kept his voice flat, unsure of what to say next. “But it doesn’t matter.” He grabbed that morning’s copy of Le Monde from the corner of the bar and scanned the front page without taking in a single piece of information printed there. …
Jacques turned and walked the length of the exterior of the bar to the car park fully intending to cross it, but Marianne’s words kept circling in his mind. Without understanding why, he turned right out of the car park and followed the D6 around the sweeping bend towards Beth’s chalet. When he looked up he saw that the shutters on the master bedroom were pinned back, framing a yellow light from the windows. He quickened his path.
What am I doing? He stopped, let out a deep sigh, zipped up his leather jacket, turned and walked back home.
Living in the Countryside
Forêt was an investigator at the police in Paris – then after some incident when he got injured by a gunshot bullet he decided to leave Paris and become a gendarme in Southern France, in a small village, where he is responsible for everyone and anything. He’s got a boss, but his office is in the next small town. His boss runs a tight ship. Sometimes Forêt gets help by a colleague for some days, but the staffing level is narrow. Forêt’s boss doesn’t like any investigations based on assumptions and always seems to hope that everything will turn out all right, automatically.
Most of the cases are petty crime like poaching, like bicycle thefts … Forêt doesn’t seem to be challenged enough. That’s why he is always eager to some more investigations than obviously necessary – especially when his boss tries to call him off and likes to bury a case. However, Forêt has got a fine gut feeling and doesn’t waste precious resources although it seems that he fishes around most of the time.
In short: Forêt is successful and solves the long lasting case of a serial murderer … However, subsequently he decides to leave the police and become a private investigator, in the beginning working for a company although still in deep connection with his former colleagues and the investigating magistrate. By this move in his career new cases with different subjects are on the horizon and Forêt may proof his ability to untangle complex cases with links into the past. Finally he sets up his own investigation company having some co-workers around him.
Although more in a rural French backwater than in a megalopolis there are more murders and crime cases as you might suppose. Obviously bucolic, picturesque villages and slow life don’t mean the absence of crime. (However, this isn’t really news!)
Who is Beth?
Forêt is in love with Beth, an English woman living part-time in Southern France. All i. e. a love affair starts before the novels start. Otherwise Beth was married, is now a widow with secrets – or better: there are secrets relating to her dead husband. Forêt tries to help whenever and wherever he can. All in all it develops into some sort of on-off relationship. It seems that both don’t have the heart to go ahead.
Finally they find their home together and Beth moves to France. They marry and there is a baby. The years fly by. Unfortunately Beth will die … and Forêt has to bring up his child as a single father. He manages hard to combine his job and his life as a father – and to prevent any attempts of Beth’s family to transfer his child and the responsibility for the child to England.
Forêt is not alone where he lives and works. Around him there is a village community and neighbors, colleagues … The novels not only deal with Forêt and his cases, but you also learn quite a lot about his social environment and the mechanisms of a small village where there seems to be only little privacy. (Nevertheless there is always room for any criminal activities among the shades …)
The novels range over some years accompanying the cases as well as the lives of Forêt and all his friends and neighbours. Also some cases may pop up again some time later when new evidence is suddenly revealed or sometimes a case is not completely finished at the end of the novel. All seems to be an ongoing story. What makes these novels so interesting and compelling is this mix of crime and cases with the life of all the protagonists, the insights into living in a small village …
Nevertheless you may read each novel as it is – you won’t need to start from the beginning, novel by novel …