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Deadly Slipper: A Novel of Death in the Dordogne Paperback – July 19, 2005

3.1 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Set in the Dordogne region in southwestern France, Wan's debut, a French-flavored mystery with botanical window dressing, tracks the perilous search for a rare orchid and its long-missing hunter. Nineteen years after her identical twin sister, Bedie, disappeared on an orchid hunt in the Dordogne, interior decorator Mara Dunn (who relocated to the region) still can't let go. So when she discovers Bedie's camera—its roll of film intact—she approaches British orchidologist Julian Wood to help retrace her sister's last steps using the photographs of flowers. A picture of the exceedingly uncommon Lady's Slipper piques Julian's interest, and the pair are off, quarreling their way across the increasingly hazardous French countryside. The menacing locals aren't much help, including as they do the de Sauvignacs, an impoverished pair of elderly aristocrats and their sexy son, Alain, plus the Rochers, an incestuous mother-and-son pair who rob and abandon hitchhikers. Wan's careful botanical depictions and broad evocation of local flavor don't always balance the mechanical plotting and lack of suspense. Fans of Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief will find this novel a little less literary. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Orchid fever rules this impressive debut novel. The desire to discover a new variety of orchid draws a young woman, Bedie Dunn, into the Dordogne region of southwestern France. She never returns from her expedition, however, and the case grows cold until her twin sister, nearly 20 years later, discovers the camera Bedie took with her, along with a number of photographs of wild orchids. The surviving twin seeks out an expert on orchids, who lives in the Dordogne. Smart move, both for atmosphere, character, and plot. Readers will gain a wealth of insiders' insights into orchids as the twin sister and reluctant -botanist-sleuth explore the rugged landscape of the Dordogne. The fact that the botanist is also a fevered orchid enthusiast heightens suspense throughout: Is he helping to find the missing sister, or setting up the surviving sister for his own gain? Not since Nero Wolfe has such a fragrant combination of orchid lore and suspense found its way into a mystery novel. Connie Fletcher
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; First Edition edition (July 19, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385514573
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385514576
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,582,570 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on July 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
While backpacking, a young woman finds a remarkable grouping of orchids in the Dordogne Forest in southwestern France, the centerpiece a rare species never before located in this part of Europe. Excitedly she photographs the blooms, both in close-up and from a distance, establishing the location of the groupings. The forest is absolutely still, when the woman hears a footstep...

Nineteen years later, Mara Dunn arrives on Julian Wood's doorstep. Taciturn and withdrawn, Wood is a bachelor, botanical aficionado and orchidologist, one of many in this area of the French countryside. Armed with only the poorly-exposed film and a single print of a pigeonnier, a dovecote, Mara enlists Julian's aid in locating the orchids her sister, Bedie, photographed, a point of reference for Mara's search. A Canadian interior decorator, Mara has lived in the region for the last few years, drawn lately to the scene of Bedie's earlier disappearance. Proving knowledgeable about orchids, cultivating his own, as well as botanical projects from which he makes his living, Julian reluctantly agrees, tempted by a great find in the world of horticulture.

Mara and Julian map out a search area, scientifically approaching what seems an impossible task. As this odd couple progresses, Mara often senses someone watching her; once, isolated in a stand of trees, she hears footsteps and begins to run, but the steps easily keep pace, foiled only by the appearance of a stranger, Alain Sauvignac, whose parents own a nearby estate. Such unnerving incidents distract Mara, increasing her anxiety. The forest is the key, but every time she goes there, it is with a familiar unease.
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Format: Paperback
Beatrice "Bede" Dunn became fascinated with wild orchids when she got a summer job with the Ontario Ministry of the Environment. They sent her to the Bruce Peninsula to map orchids. She spent three months there, wandering around the woodlands, doing some serious hiking and camping-out. When she returned in the fall with fifty rolls of film, she had a new avocation - wild orchid hunting. Bede became passionate about "documenting the existence of a single flower or the breeding ground of a particular species." In 1984 she and her boyfriend, Scott, went on a hiking holiday in the Dordogne region of southwestern France. When it began to rain, the couple had an argument about whether to leave their camp and seek shelter elsewhere or to stay put. Bede was adamant about remaining and so she did - alone. When Scott returned two days later the tent and their things were still at the campsite, but Bede was gone, along with her camera, backpack, Michelin guide and a book on wildflowers and orchids. No one ever saw the young woman again. After a massive search and investigation, which garnered much publicity, no evidence of foul play was discovered, no body, no crime scene.

Mara Dunn, Bede's identical twin, has never resigned herself to the loss of her sister. She moved to the Dordogne after her divorce became final and went into the interior design business, all the while maintaining contact with the police. Nothing concrete, however, was found concerning the disappearance. During an antique hunting expedition in a near-by town, Mara discovered an old Canon camera in a pile of junk. She noticed it immediately, even though the case was mildewed and worn, because it was identical to the cameras her parents had given her and her sister for their high school graduation.
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Format: Paperback
Description: An elegant mystery and the opportunity to learn about wild orchids growing in France

Pros: Well done in the 320 pages available

Cons: Too short for truly satisfying development of the plot and characters

Nearly twenty years ago, Mara Dunn's twin sister Bedie disappeared while hiking in the Dordogne in Southwestern France. Everyone, including the police, seems to have forgotten about Bedie, but Mara continues to be haunted by thoughts of her twin. When Mara finds what she believes is Bedie's camera containing the film of a series of wild orchids in varying habitats, she believes that local orchid expert Julian Wood may be able to trace the route Bedie followed-the route on which she disappeared.

Julian reluctantly agrees to help her, not because he's interested in solving the mystery of Bedie's disappearance, but because one of the photographed orchids appears to be a type of Lady's Slipper that doesn't grow in the Dordogne. Julian would like to be the discoverer of that rare orchid.

Mara and Julian encounter a member of locals in their search-some interesting, some peculiar, some frightening-and Mara finds herself in danger before the hunt is over. The mystery is solved and the rare orchid is explained along the way. I enjoyed the excellent descriptions of the area, the inhabitants, and the food as much as the mystery. But everything about the book seemed scant. I kept thinking this was a longer book that had been over-cut: I wanted more.

Recommendation: Buy.
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