Monday, November 20, 2023

Book Review: Mastering the Art of French Murder by Colleen Cambridge (An American in Paris Mystery #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Strong mystery and great characters, including Julia Child
Cons: One aspect of plot a little unclear at the end
The Bottom Line:
Death after party
Julia is a suspect
In this fun debut

Chef’s Knife of Crime

I’ve collected several first in series from Colleen Cambridge since all her historical mysteries have sounded good to me.  I finally decided to dive in with Mastering the Art of French Murder, the first American in Paris Mystery.  I’m glad I picked it up.

This book is set in December 1949 and introduces us to Tabitha Knight.  She spent the war working in a factory, but now that the war is over, she’s found herself at loose ends.  So, she accepted an invitation to go live with her grandfather in Paris.  It just so happens that one of her neighbors is Julia Child, and the two have become close friends.

Julia’s younger sister, Dort, is also living with Julia and her husband.  Dort works at a local theater that puts on plays in English, and she often brings home members of the cast and crew for late night parties.  Tabitha is at one of them since Dort is trying to set her up with one of the crew.

But the next morning, Tabitha and Julia discover that one of the guests never made it home.  Instead, she’s been murdered in the building’s basement.  The murder weapon was Julia’s prized chef’s knife.  It quickly becomes obvious that one of the members of the party must be guilty, but the police think Julia might have had something to do with it.  Can Tabitha find the truth?

I will admit, I’m not extremely familiar with Julia Child except by reputation, meaning I’ve never watched her show or read any of her cookbooks.   Still, the Julia I met in this book felt like the Julia I was picturing in my mind from clips I have seen over the years.  Yes, she is a supporting character, but I really enjoyed it when she was on the page.

But she is just one of the cast of characters, and they are all great.  I really enjoyed Tabitha, and I feel like there is a lot to explore with her character in future books.  The other supporting players are fun, and the suspects kept me guessing.

In fact, I thought I had picked up on a subtle clue at one point.  I was so proud of myself only to discover at the end I’d fallen for a red herring.  Yes, this means the mystery was well done, with enough twists to keep me engaged until the ending.  I did feel like one aspect of the plot got lost in the climax, but it didn’t bother me too much.

There was some mild swearing in this book, which I wasn’t really expecting.  As long as you know that going in, you’ll be fine.

As you’d expect in a book with Julia Child as a character there is lots of talk of food and scenes set in a kitchen going over the details of the case.  If you aren’t hungry when you pick up the book, you will be when you are done with it.  No, there aren’t any recipes at the end of the book, but it is definitely still a culinary mystery.

I will have to dig into the author’s other series soon.  But in the meantime, I’m looking forward to the next in this series, coming this spring.  Mastering the Art of French Murder is a fun debut that will keep you turning pages.


  1. I have this one on my wishlist. It looks really good.

  2. This sounds good! I've read another book by this author in the Agatha Christie housekeeper series and didn't love it but I think that's because going in my expectations were thru the roof. I will have to try this one!


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