Haircuts, Hens, and Homicide by Stephanie Dagg
Megan finds mayhem when she arrives in France to bury her Gran and sort out her affairs. She expected difficult encounters with civil servants and red tape but not with wandering chickens, an imperious policeman and a dead body. Together with her unlikely new friend, the elderly and grumpy Alphonse and his canine equivalent, Monsieur Moustache, Megan becomes involved in investigating the fowl-related foul play that’s at work in this sleepy part of rural France.
She’s helped but mainly hindered by the people she comes across. These include the local mayor, who wants Megan to stay and set up a hair salon in his village to help keep it alive. There are the cousins Romain, the gendarme, and Nico, the clumsy but hunky farmer. They have always clashed, but do so constantly now that Megan is on the scene. Michelle, Romain’s terrifying ex who wants him back, appears along the way, as does Claudette, a wheelchair-bound old lady, and Kayla, Megan’s best friend, who is hugely pregnant but not above taking on the forces of French law and order when Megan finds herself the prime suspect after Alphonse is stabbed.
There’s excitement, humour and lots of ruffled feathers in this rom-com slash cosy mystery, the first in a projected series.
This is not an ordinary straight-forward romance; it is a mix of genres (and we all know I like that), filled with a brilliant cast of characters, human and otherwise. I believed in these people, they were as real to me as my friends, and I’m convinced that if I rolled up in a village these people would be in residence and recognisable. The author has created a wholly realistic and believable world inhabited by characters that have all the strengths, weaknesses, and failings of human beings everywhere.
Megan’s life is vastly different from the one her grandmother has been living in France in recent years; she’s a hairdresser in Maidenhead, living an average life, but with aspirations for her career. Although Megan has visited France many times, and feels relatively ‘at home’ there, she encounters much that she doesn’t quite understand. The constant invasion of her kitchen for a start. In an area populated mostly by old and older people, cousins Romain, an unsmiling, serious gendarme, and Nico, a seriously hot looking farmer with a severe ‘bull in a china shop’ problem, are constantly locking horns around Megan. Some of their encounters are comical as are some of her reactions.
Stephanie Dagg’s depiction of the main characters is absolute delight, and she reveals them to us in different ways. Cleverly writing in the first person, we see everything from Megan’s point of view, so immediately we know her thoughts and feelings, her opinions and reactions. With Romain, she peels back the layers slowly and steadily, so like Megan, we are kept wondering just what is going on inside his head. Megan and Romain are constantly thrown in each other’s company, partly by accident and partly by design on Romain’s side. While their backgrounds and experiences are very different, through the narrative the author subtly highlights the underlying similarities. These two devices are a masterclass for anyone with writing ambitions.
Megan was abandoned by her mother, has no clue as to who her father is, and was raised by her prickly, no-nonsense, but loving grandmother. Not only dumped by her fiancée but now newly redundant, apart from her best friend Kayla, Megan is alone in the world. Romain has recently returned home but we don’t know why, he has family, friends, and a community that he belongs to, and though his parents are wealthy and he had a somewhat privileged background, it wasn’t a fun childhood.
Frivolity was frowned on
So whilst one set of parents were there, and the other parent disappeared and declared dead, they have each marked their children. Megan and perhaps Romain too, learn that family is more than blood relatives. Megan’s friend Kayla, and the little community they belong to show more real and genuine care and concern.
Both characters have escaped potentially disastrous relationships. Megan started the new year being dumped by her fiancée in January, two months before their wedding. Romain has escaped from a relationship with Michelle, a rather domineering woman with a demanding career. She is high maintenance, very much a city-dweller, and a force to be reckoned with. Her return causes a frisson of dread to both Romain and Nico, and the reaction of the men to her entrance in the café was hilarious. Megan is not in the least put out or perturbed by Michelle, she deals with snooty domineering women often in her business, and while she has some similar traits to Michelle, they are more subtle and less selfish.
Megan is a feisty, warm-hearted and loving young woman yet simmering quietly beneath the surface is a discontent. She is bright and intelligent, and the walking talking epitome of the phrase, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Torn between returning to England and remaining in France, she weighs up what each has to offer. As the trail of criminal activity expands, shocking secrets revealed, and homicide is on the doorstep, Megan is undaunted. Her open and unsophisticated nature is in sharp relief to Romain who seems to be somewhat aloof. He keeps his behaviour, thinking and emotions, under strict control, and Megan enjoys confronting and provoking him, as much as Romain enjoys doing the same to her. Gradually however he is revealed to be a caring and compassionate man, with a warm and passionate nature.
With a cast of ‘villagers’ that includes Erik the vet and his mother, Alphonse and Monsieur Moustache, Megan’s girls, the Mayor, and many more, we are presented with a plethora of characters who entertain and endear themselves to the reader. Who hasn’t experienced the rural French lunch hour, where almost everyone and everything stops work, as Megan says:
No-one messes with lunchtime in France
Stephanie has given us a novel that is humorous and romantic, lively and cheerful. The tone and language are light and amusing, and it’s an all-round bloody good read. The burgeoning romance and the murder detection are woven together with subtly and ease. We are flipped from yes they will to no they won’t with no regard for the readers sensibilities – and its brilliant! To find out who killed who and who ends up with who, you’ll have to read the book. Be prepared for face-achingly hilarious situations, cringe-worthy moments, and plenty of wonderful animals, but for me Monsieur Moustache ultimately steals the show.
And the extra bit at the end?
Give me Perms, Pigeons, and Poisons NOW!!
What to more can I say?
Buy it. Read it.
Enjoy it. Love it.
Haircuts, Hens, and Homocides has been added to my books of the year list. Yes. Its THAT fantastic.
HERE : Amazon
I’m an English expat living in France, having moved here with my family in 2006 after fourteen years as an expat in Ireland. I now consider myself a European rather than ‘belonging’ to any particular country. The last ten years have been interesting, to put it mildly. Taking on seventy-five acres with three lakes, two hovels and one cathedral-sized barn, not to mention an ever increasing menagerie, makes for exciting times. The current array of animals includes alpacas, llamas, huarizos (alpaca-llama crossbreds, unintended in our case and all of them thanks to one very determined alpaca male), sheep, goats, pigs, ducks, geese, chickens and turkeys, not forgetting our pets of dogs, cats, zebra finches, budgies , canaries, lovebirds and Chinese quail. Before we came to France all we had was a dog and two chickens, so it’s been a steep learning curve. I recount these experiences in my book Heads Above Water: Staying Afloat in France and the sequel to that, Total Immersion: Ten Years in France. I also blog regularly at http://www.bloginfrance.com.
I’m married to Chris and we have three bilingual TCKs (third culture kids) who are resilient and resourceful and generally wonderful.
I’m a traditionally-published author of many children’s books, and am now self-publishing too. I have worked part-time as a freelance editor for thirty years after starting out as a desk editor for Hodder & Stoughton. Find me at http://www.editing.zone. The rest of the time I’m running carp fishing lakes with Chris and inevitably cleaning up some or other animal’s poop.
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