Swiss Vendetta, Tracee de Hahn's mesmerizing debut, is an emotionally complex, brilliantly plotted mystery set against the beautiful but harsh backdrop of a Swiss winter.
Inspector Agnes Lüthi, a Swiss-American police officer in Lausanne, Switzerland, has just transferred to the Violent Crimes unit from Financial Crimes to try to shed all reminders of her old life following her husband's death. Now, on the eve of the worst blizzard Lausanne has seen in centuries, Agnes has been called to investigate her very first homicide case. On the lawn of the grand Château Vallotton, at the edge of Lac Léman, a young woman has been found stabbed to death. The woman, an appraiser for a London auction house, had been taking inventory at the château, a medieval fortress dripping in priceless works of art and historical treasures.
Agnes finds it difficult to draw answers out of anyone—the tight-lipped Swiss family living in the château, the servants who have been loyal to the family for generations, the aging WWII survivor who lives in the neighboring mansion, even the American history student studying at the Vallotton château's library. As the storm rages on, roads become impassible, the power goes out around Lausanne, and Agnes finds herself trapped in the candlelit halls of the château with all the players of the mystery, out of her depth in her first murder case and still struggling to stay afloat after the death of her husband.
Police detective Agnes L thi tackles her first homicide case in de Hahn's absorbing debut. Felicity Cowell, a British art assessor with a sordid past, has been killed at an elegant lakeside estate near Lausanne, Switzerland. When a blizzard descends, Agnes and other investigators become trapped at Ch teau Vallotton with the aristocratic Vallotton family, their guests and servants, as well as an elderly neighbor, the charming Vladimir Arsov, who fought with the French Resistance during WWII. De Hahn sets up a locked-room mystery with potential for rich interpersonal tensions. The rarefied, restrictive world of Swiss aristocracy provides a tantalizing backdrop, and Agnes born to American parents, raised in Switzerland, and a widowed mother of three sons after her husband's recent suicide is a strong series lead. Coincidences abound, but those who like a fireside read on a winter night will be pleased.
Book felt flat!
Swiss Vendetta: A Mystery is Tracee de Hahn’s debut novel. Inspector Agnes Luthi is with the police force in Lausanne, Switzerland. She has just transferred from financial crimes to the violent crimes unit. Agnes is trying to get away from the memories of her recently deceased husband and its associations with her former boss, Robert Carnat. A severe winter storm is blowing into the area when Agnes is called out to her first murder scene at Chateau Vallotton on the shores of Lac Leman. Agnes has extreme difficulty in getting to the location due to the storm, but she finally arrives. The body of Felicity Cowell was found near a bench outside the chateau. Felicity is dressed in a man’s coat and boots over a vintage evening dress. Felicity had been working at the chateau for the last few weeks evaluating art for the auction house she works for in London. The storm strands Agnes at Chateau Vallotton without cell phone reception and without power. Agnes tries to question the Vallotton family and their guests, but they are less than forthcoming. But, thanks to the storm, Agnes will have extra time to ferret out answers and clues to the killer’s identity. When Mimi, the six-year-old ward of Daniel Vallotton’s father, goes missing, Agnes will have to work quickly put together all the pieces to identify the perpetrator. Will she be able to catch the killer before he (or she) strikes again?
Swiss Vendetta has an interesting mystery and a unique setting. I had an extremely hard time, though, getting through this novel. It took be three attempts to finish it. The writing style is formal which makes for difficult reading. The author liked to use $10 words as my father called them (an example is imperturbability). The conversations between characters were awkward and stilted. The beginning of the book is slow as Agnes drives to the crime scene (I fell asleep twice). Then we are introduced to a litany of characters who I could not keep straight (I was finally starting to figure out who was who near the end). I wish the author had provided a pronunciation guide (it would be helpful). Agnes is a hard to character to like. It is understandable that Agnes is grieving the death of her husband, but it overpowered her (and not because of her love for him). She has two sons to consider, but Agnes is very focused on herself. We find out the circumstances surrounding the husband’s death in the second half of the book (if you can make it that far). Agnes was depressed which clouds her outlook (she bummed me out). I found some information to be repeated and there is quite a bit of speculation on Agnes’ part (since she is snowed in and lacking in evidence). The novel gets better towards the end of the book. I give Swiss Vendetta 2 out of 5 stars. Swiss Vendetta just felt flat and sorrowful.