Having just returned from a memorable few days in France, I now understand why so many people love this country. Angela Wren and I met there “in the flesh” for the first time, and I’m delighted to introduce her to you. She makes me want to return tomorrow, and I will re-read her books with a new light in my eyes.
Hi Jane, and thanks very much for inviting me back onto your blog. I’ll try not to bore your regular readers with my enthusiasm for France!
I’m not ashamed to say that I’m a lover of France. Have been since I was teenager. I’ve been spending time there for almost as long and I still find the country fascinating and I never seem to stop learning new things about the history and the culture. But there’s also the geography that is varied – from the flat marshy plains of the Vendée bordering the Bay of Biscay to the vast and spectacular gorges of the Tarn, Dordogne and Verdon along with the uplands of the Grands Causses of the Massif Central and the vastness of the Alps and Pyrénées. At 6 times the size of GB, there’s a shed-load of scenery to look at!
Today, I want to take you to one of my favourite places, the Cévennes, an upland area in south central France. Look at a modern map of France and you’ll see the Cévennes is now defined as a national park that covers parts of 4 départements – Ardèche, Gard, Hérault, and Lozère. It spreads south and west below the route nationale RN88, a major thoroughfare that crosses this upland area from Lyon heading southwest. It’s an area I’ve visited many times and there’s a wild ruggedness and a silence there I can’t seem to find anywhere else.
When I visit, I like to be in a tiny village that sits just north of the national park in col de la Pierre Plantée (planted rock). So called because of that vast grey rocks strewn across the open pasture areas as though they are growing out of the landscape. Apparently they warrant the technical term of ‘glacial erratics’, having been deposited millions of year ago as the ice sheets retreated.
At an altitude of 1263 metres (that’s 4,144 feet above sea-level), it’s a bit like living close to the summit of Ben Nevis (4,413 ft), but with better weather in summer. Come here in June and the pastures are pear-green, the pines are inky-green in colour with the pale yellow pollen from the cones drifting on the gentle breeze. The leaves of the chestnut trees are the same lush shade of green as shamrock, and, amidst the green expanse sit clumps of sunshine yellow genêt (botanical name Genista) almost competing for a right to grow amongst the planted rocks. When it’s 28° in the centre of Mende (préfecture for Lozère) it’s a balmy 22°/23° up on the col.
Having said that, the weather can be extreme and it can change in a moment. When I was there a couple of years ago, it last snowed on May 31st. In July and August the weather can be hot and dry and the grass turns a straw yellow under the baking sun. In September the balmy breeze returns but so can the rain, bringing with it vast storms and floods. I remember watching the sky in 1992 as it raged above the col, the colours moving from white to yellow, pink, and then green as a storm devastated the whole area and forced a national emergency to be declared.
That year it was rain, but sometimes it can be snow if the wind is coming from the right direction – as it was overnight on September 27th in 2007. I woke up the next morning to a silent and white mountainous landscape and, after taking in the view, my thoughts turned to murder and how easy it would be to use snow in a place like the Cévennes to cover someone’s misdeeds.
So, I can honestly say that, I never made a single conscious or deliberate decision to locate my books in France. It, genuinely, just happened.
A clear-cut case?
A re-examination of a closed police case brings investigator, Jacques Forêt, up against an old adversary. After the murder of a key witness, Jacques finds himself, and his team, being pursued.
When a vital piece of evidence throws a completely different light on Jacques’ case, his adversary becomes more aggressive, and Investigating Magistrate Pelletier threatens to sequester all of Jacques papers and shut down the investigation.
Can Jacques find all the answers before Pelletier steps in?
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