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A French Country Murder Hardcover – March 12, 2003

49 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Le Carre and Deighton fans will welcome New Yorker cartoonist Steiner's engaging, if enigmatic, first novel, which uses the traditional trappings of the thriller to explore a man's late-life changes. After his unjust dismissal from the CIA, where he was an up-and-coming Middle East policy expert, Louis Morgon finds refuge in rural France. Decades later, someone deposits a corpse with a slit throat on his doorstep. While little mystery surrounds the identity of the prime conspirator, the story, which uses flashbacks and flash-forwards, avoids pat resolutions and does full justice to the complexities of interpersonal relationships. The scenes set in small-town France capture the atmosphere and pace of life there wonderfully.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"A wonderful novel - keen-eyed, circumspect, patient and wise. In crafting his alluring debut, Mr. Steiner shows us how those who lust for power can never be satisfied and that a small village in rural France isn't all that far from Washington, D.C. when a killer comes to call. "A French Country Murder" est superbe - as a study of a man whose choices haunt him and as a quietly thrilling mystery."
- Jim Fusilli, author of Closing Time and A Well-Known Secret

"A French Country Murder is a rare phenomenon, a beautiful crime novel. When I realized what it was, I began to read more slowly to make it last."
- Thomas Perry, Edgar-award-winning author of The Butcher's Boy

"Le Carre and Deighton fans will welcome New Yorker cartoonist Steiner's engaging . . . first novel"
- Publishers Weekly

"Early reviewers have likened Steiner's debut to John le Carre and Len Deighton, but to me the writer he resembles most is Nicolas Freeling, who in recent years has written mysteries . . . about older men in peril because of their past. Morgon is a fascinating character, recognizable in all his vanity and paranoia. And Steiner, who lives part of the year in France, sketches such a rich life for his tiny town that he makes you want to forgive Jacques Chirac all his sins and get on the next plane."
- Chicago Tribune

"Steiner's studied understatement--the unmysterious tale unfolds largely in retrospective summary--renders the stuff of international intrigue into a coolly telegraphic portrait of betrayal."
- Kirkus Reviews

"A French Country Murder is a complex, enigmatic mystery whose appeal lies chiefly in debut novelist Peter Steiner's compelling narrative and delightful descriptions of the people and places he encounters in France."
- Nashville Tennessean

"A beautifully rendered portrait of a peaceful retirement doomed by the past."
- Contra Costa Times

"A captivating murder mystery . . . . for anyone who enjoys good writing. Let's hope Peter Steiner puts his drawing pens down long enough to writer more."
- Tampa Tribune & Times

"Simple and straightfoward, in stunning contrast to the plot."
- St. Louis Post-Dispatch

- Harriet Klausner

- Library Journal

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Product Details

  • Series: A Louis Morgon Thriller (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 246 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; 1st edition (March 12, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312306873
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312306878
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #376,782 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

PETER STEINER was born and grew up in Cincinnati. After the University of Miami and the Free University of Berlin, and then after serving in the army in Germany, he got a PHD. in German literature. He taught at Dickinson College for eight years, but left teaching to become an artist and cartoonist. For the next twenty-five years he made his living as a cartoonist for The New Yorker and many other publications. He created the cartoon "On the internet nobody knows you're a dog," the most reproduced cartoon The New Yorker has ever published. In the late 1990's he began writing novels, at first for his own amusement. Then his first novel, A French Country Murder was published in 2003. His second followed in 2008; his third in 2010. He lives in Connecticut and spends a good part of each year in rural France, where all three of his books take place. He divides his time between writing and painting. His paintings can be seen on his website, plsteiner.com.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on March 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Peter Steiner may be familiar to you, though not as a writer. He is a cartoonist; his work appears in such diverse publications as The New Yorker and The Washington Times. Knowledge of his work in his heretofore chosen profession will not prepare you for A FRENCH COUNTRY MURDER, his first novel. This is an altogether serious work, combining elements of Agatha Christie and Robert Ludlum while, at the same time, striking off into different territory.
A FRENCH COUNTRY MURDER is, more than anything else, a study of Louis Morgon, an American expatriate living quietly in rural France and a willing slave to the quiet routine he has constructed for himself. That routine is shattered with the discovery of a dead body at Morgon's literal doorstep. We learn that Morgon, a former U.S. State Department liaison with the CIA, has a past that he refers to as "the sordid world" and that has abruptly intruded into his present. Morgon almost immediately knows the meaning, if not the circumstances, that led to the placing of the body at his front door. Steiner, during the course of A FRENCH COUNTRY MURDER, frequently moves between Morgon's present and past, revealing how Morgon, an up-and-comer in the State Department, came to lose his career, his marriage and family, and live in a small French village with his paints, his casual friendship with the village gendarme and his affair with his next door neighbor. All of these things will be changed with A FRENCH COUNTRY MURDER as Morgon, who has been driven quietly but irrevocably mad by life, sets about to trace the murder back to its source in order to prevent his own demise.
Morgon is not the only unforgettable character Steiner creates herein, however.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 24, 2003
Format: Hardcover
There's a certain je ne sais quoi about a brutal murder in a peaceful country setting, a reminder perhaps that our lives, no matter how tranquil, are never perfectly safe. Consider the case of Louis Morgon, former CIA-State Department liaison, whose day usually starts with coffee, baguette and marmalade on the terrace of his home in rural France. Beyond is a sublime view of fields of sunflowers under a sky of "that particular blue which endures right down to the horizon, a color so intense and deep that you can feel the blackness of outer space behind it."
It sounds like heaven on earth and it is . . . until the morning that Morgon on the way to his sunny terrace finds a corpse, its throat neatly slit from ear to ear, on his doorstep. He telephones the one-man police force, his friend Jean Renard, who sets in motion an investigation that reaches all the way back to "the sordid world," Morgon's shorthand phrase for the messy life he left behind in Washington, D.C.
He has no wish to be reminded of that time of deception and treachery or the back stabbing that ended his career at the CIA. Deciding that living - and eating - well is the best revenge, he's bought a house in a small French town, taken up painting and cooking, planted a vegetable garden, acquired a French mistress. With the arrival of the corpse the sixtyish expatriate senses that his idyllic way of life is in danger, possibly his very existence.
So begins "A French Country Murder," by Peter Steiner, the slyly funny cartoonist whose work appears in the New Yorker, the Weekly Standard and this newspaper. Like his protagonist, Mr. Steiner has a house in France and paints, posing a second (minor) mystery: How much of the Morgon character is Steiner?
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Gauloise on December 31, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This is an enjoyable read. The opening paragraph demonstrates the author's fluid, natural style: the description of Louis' morning breakfast ritual is skillfully understated, leaving ample room for the reader to evoke the proper mood. This same quality permeates much of the book.

Plot and details are very good; Peter Steiner entertains and educates with a deft hand. The pace of the story is excellent: not once did I find myself becoming either impatient or overwhelmed by the unfolding of events.

Yet, this mystery suffers in a few areas, most notably with regard to motive. One cannot understand the antagonist's desire to chart such a reckless course with regard to Louis; there's simply no reason not to let sleeping dogs lie. Instead, one is forced to attribute the motive to rather implausable psychological factors.

Also, there's a bit too much narrative. Action would have been preferable. The narrative strives to convince the reader of the characters' underlying psychological states. Unfortunately, without sufficient action on the part of the characters to back this up, the narrative only serves to reveal the author's own psychology. I found this suprising, since Steiner otherwise does a very good job of keeping himself out of the way of his characters.

It's likely that this author will soon mature into an excellent mystery writer. I plan to follow his work with great interest.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By CSS on February 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover
FYI, A French Country Murder was reprinted in 2008 as a paperback with a different title, Le Crime (Louis Morgan Mysteries).
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