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The Messengers of Death (Commissaire Laviolette #6)

3.44  ·  Rating Details ·  117 Ratings  ·  28 Reviews
In a sleepy Provencal village, retired postman Emile Pencenat is busy digging his own grave when he spots an unstamped letter in the cemetery's disused postbox, addressed to a Madamoiselle Champourcieux. He dutifully posts the letter. When the body of this same Madamoiselle is later discovered - pinned to her piano with an ancient bayonet - Commissaire Laviolette is coaxed ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published July 5th 2007 by Vintage (first published 1986)
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Sarah Haddad
Sep 04, 2014 Sarah Haddad rated it really liked it
I do not usually like to read crime fiction, but this was brilliantly written. I felt like I was drawn into a different world in France, rich in history, surrounded by distinct unusual characters. I suspected the killer very early on, from a subtle familiarity. Some passages were so brilliantly written, I would read the passage and then think - did I just read that?! Wow! 'Even the most shocked reactions die down quickly in these deep valleys where eternal mystery is inherent in the geology and ...more
Jan 31, 2010 salinthebay rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Great French language translated into prosaic English always seduces me! This is a crazy, convoluted, bizarre little mystery that takes place in Provance...not the Provance of Peter Mayle and his arty discriptions of touristy France. This read takes place in the boonies of southeast France in the Basse-Alpes, Digne area, a poor, rural, isolated region north of Marseilles. Google Earth helped trail the murderer through the wind swept mountains. Very atmospheric descriptions. Not necessarily on my ...more
Dec 16, 2010 Brackman1066 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries
This was probably a good book, but I didn't like it. I can appreciate that the spare style of Hammett and Chandler shouldn't put a choke collar on mystery writers forever and aye. But the fact is, I'm over lyrical realism. Magnan even does it well--he avoids the usual trap of having *all* of the characters indulge in lengthy meditations about nature and the human condition, whether it's in character for them to do so or not. Still, having the narrator break in for long passage after long passage ...more
Nicole Harkin
Jul 09, 2010 Nicole Harkin rated it really liked it
A retired inspector is brought out of retirement to help the local Judge figure out what happened as people start dropping like flies. They all receive a letter in the mail that says one thing: The measure that you give will be the measure that you get. Avarice. This French book covers the topic of avarice with abandon. I did not know what the word meant when I first started reading. Just in case you don’t know: greed. The book explores the greed of towns, ideas, histories, and most of all peopl ...more
Mar 17, 2010 Robin rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: detective story fans
This was a very well written, very entertaining, very uniquely French detective novel. I will definitely be looking to read more books from this author.

The mystery of the novel was very well laid out. It's a whodunnit tale, and I had a pretty good (and ultimately correct) guess at who the culprit was. Anyone with a good grasp on story structure and mystery writing probably would as well. What helped in my case though, as an American, was that Victor Hugo is one of my favorite authors and so I've
Jun 16, 2009 Patrick rated it really liked it
Here's PW:

"A crime offering delicate soupçons of passionate desires and outrageous sex lures former Superintendent Laviolette out of retirement in Magnan's stylish second Provence mystery (after 2007's Death in the Truffle Wood). When avaricious spinster Véronique Champourcieux is found with 30 centimeters of rusty 1871 bayonet in her belly, Laviolette's old acquaintance Judge Chabrand enlists his help in the murder investigation. As one grisly killing after another ensues, the pair delve into l
Sep 21, 2009 Ulysses rated it really liked it
Shelves: to-reread
I picked this up on a whim at the Harvard Book Store from the remainders pile, based on the title alone. And what do you know... it was a really frickin' good book. Like, REALLY frickin' good. I seriously considered giving it five stars, but couldn't bring myself to do so in the end, as a result of (A) its author's laughable (and totally irrelevant, in the context of this book) obsession with sex, and (B) the fact that no book's punchline should ever require a non-ironic footnote. (Or an ironic ...more
Dec 14, 2011 Tomchicago rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Laviolette is an exception to the "super-detective" rule: I found it very appealing that he admits to his grudging friend, Chabrand, that he was not really meant to be a detective. Laviolette has a mellow bearing and a lyrical way of seeing things around him. I'm enjoying this one; the severe land in which it takes place is also described fully and is a vivid element in the story. The clues are very plainly set out, but I have no idea (yet) who is the villain.

One of the best things about this on
Apr 27, 2013 M M rated it really liked it
Pierre Magnan's dark and dank and claustrophobic thriller of selfishness, familial discord and greed is set in the cold winters of Upper Provence. Aman finds an unstamped letter lying by postbox outside a cemetery in a village and posts it. The recipient is shortly murdered. And then another letter is posted and another victim is found killed. And yet another. The retired inspector Laviolette is dragged into the case and he has to use his deeply sympathetic understanding of the closed and serf-l ...more
Apr 11, 2012 Adrienne rated it it was ok

Reason for Book’s Selection: The book’s back cover grabbed my attention.

Plot: When people in a small village begin dying, it is quickly discovered that before their deaths each received a strange and cryptic message through the post. Speaking generally, the plot is moved along by the suspense which stems from wondering first who murders the citizens of the town, then why they are murdered, then what particular thing the murderer was seeking.

Characterization: As expected of a French novelist, th
Cathy Cole
Aug 15, 2013 Cathy Cole rated it really liked it
Originally published in French in 1986, The Messengers of Death tells the tale of a series of crimes that occur in the 1960s. Pierre Magnan skillfully takes readers back to what seems a quaint and simpler time in the countryside of southeastern France.

Over his long career, Commissaire Laviolette has learned a great deal about the habits of people who live in small villages. He's an observant, intuitive sort of policeman who knows that the postmistress undoubtedly reads the mail that comes in and
Feb 22, 2011 Val rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm several chapters in and many characters have been introduced which is normally find but its making me confused in this book. Nothing has really happened yet because a lot of it has been devoted to showing the characters and their life. Perhaps i'm not use to reading this type of mystery & thats why i'm finding it difficult to get through - i'm use to the books that introduce a body by the second chapter. I think i'll keep plodding along to see if anything does happen.

*update* Glad I kept
Amy Paget
Jun 13, 2015 Amy Paget rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
These novels do NOT take place in Peter Mayle's Provence! Magnan's depiction of the hard-scrabble landscape and its characters bring incredible depth and complexity to to what might easily be dismissed as a 'retired detective set piece'. Not! The Messengers of Death,Magnan's second novel featuring Commissaire Laviolette, has much to say about history, customs, aging and collaboration. Here's the opening incident -- "Emile Pencenat is in a cemetary, designing his own ornate tomb. In a disused pos ...more
Dec 12, 2008 Susan rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery-europe
Rretired policeman Laviolette is drawn into a series of murders by Judge Chabrand. First one woman, then her cousin, is mysteriously, brutally killed. Laviolette is convinced that the secrets lie in the distant past of the Basse-Alpes, among a family of peasants all too willing to kill to preserve their little piece of land. Moody, atmospheric, and downright spooky, this will appeal to many readers of French mysteries.
Donna Jo Atwood
Jan 26, 2010 Donna Jo Atwood rated it it was ok
A little French mystery about a family inheritance that incites someone to murder. I don't want to spoil the plot, but I was somewhat underwhelmed.
Well, (gives a Gallic shrug) I read it. The most fascinating thing about this book is the author's picture on the back flap. And it's nothing to write home about.
Graham Crawford
Oct 06, 2014 Graham Crawford rated it liked it
A kooky little murder mystery that somehow avoids being quaint. Sometimes the prose was almost Gothic - certainly when it described the houses where the murders happened. I loved the Hitler kitsch chalet with perpetually crunching wood worms. The plot is pretty unbelievable but that hardly matters because this is mostly an exercise in style.
Dec 05, 2016 Debbie rated it really liked it
(Fiction, Mystery, Translated)

Commissaire Laviolette is lured out of retirement to help investigate the bayonet murder of an avaricious spinster. As Amazon says “the theme of this is as old as Cain and Abel”.

The characters in this seemed alive and the mystery is decent. This second entry in the series surpasses the series debut A Death in the Truffle Wood.

4 stars

Sep 28, 2009 Rosanne marked it as could-not-finish
I have to struggle too much to get into these books. I slogged through Death in the Truffle Wood, but there are too many other books to read and so not enough time to spend on this one. The characters don't grab me and the story is too slow moving. How do you tell a book that you're just not that into it? Moving on.
Jul 28, 2010 Deb rated it it was ok
Disappointed in this book as I liked his other book. It has a twist to it, but its just not an enjoyable read. The plot starts out w/a family being murdered leaving a 3 week old baby alive. Baby goes back home at 23 yrs. old. What happens is a bit strange to me. Someone likes it as it received awards.
Jan 25, 2009 Mary rated it liked it
Very interesting mystery; not a quick read--it seems a bit more intellectual (has bigger words!). The characters were very coarse (rustic?) and there was much more going on than at first you might think.
Dec 15, 2011 Marilyn rated it did not like it
I must be getting old or I just don't appreciate French novels. I think this took me 3months to finish and I kept forgetting who was whom and having to go back. This type of book should be a page turner and it wasnt.
Aug 26, 2009 Kim rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm pretty sure that this is the book I read. It was titled 'The Messengers Death' in English. I actually didn't enjoy the book very much and didn't like most of the characters - too dark for me, but the language was beautiful and evocative and I found that I couldn't stop reading it.
Jan 25, 2009 Melissa rated it liked it
A more sinister Peter Mayle.
Mar 13, 2010 Cat rated it it was amazing
Looooove Magnan. Love love love him. I only wish he were as prolific as Christie. Sometimes I worry that I'm going to outlive the supply of toothsome mystery novels.
Dec 16, 2008 Janice rated it really liked it
Fun to read family mystery/murder plot set in the Provence area of France. This 1986 book by a French mystery writer was recently translated into English.
Dec 31, 2016 Janet rated it really liked it
This is the second book by Magnan that I have read - want to read more. He is very wordy, in a good way. His descriptions go on and on. And - not a lot of "he said", she said! Refreshing.
Feb 07, 2010 Barbara rated it really liked it
It took me a while to 'get into' this book, but well worth it. I will try to read more of his books.
Candace rated it liked it
Nov 13, 2009
Traci rated it it was ok
Aug 22, 2010
Claire rated it it was ok
Jul 15, 2010
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the ending 1 1 Apr 16, 2017 03:46PM  
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Pierre Magnan was a bestselling French author of detective novels steeped in the sights and sounds of his beloved Provence; to readers, his sleuth, Commissaire Laviolette, was as indelibly linked to the land of lavender as Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse was to the colleges of Oxford.

Magnan’s autumnal years were prolific; he wrote more than 30 books and saw his novels adapted for French television
More about Pierre Magnan...

Other Books in the Series

Commissaire Laviolette (9 books)
  • Il sangue degli Atridi (Le inchieste del commissario Laviolette)
  • Death in the Truffle Wood
  • Le secret des Andrônes
  • Tod in Bronze
  • Les charbonniers de la mort
  • Kommissar Laviolettes Geheimnis: Drei Krimis aus der Provence
  • Le parme convient à Laviolette
  • Élégie pour Laviolette

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“Vous imaginez bien, dit Chabrand, que si je suis ici ce soir — prenant sur moi m’en doutez pas — ce n’est pas pour vous parler du vent.” 2 likes
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