Cezanne's Quarry, Barbara Corrado Pope’s debut novel, is an historical murder mystery centered on nineteenth-century painter Paul Cezanne. When the body of Solange Vernet is found in a quarry outside Aix-en-Provence, the officials on the case immediately name two suspects. Was it her lover, Darwinian scholar Charles Westerbury, who strangled her in a fit of jealous rage? Or did Paul Cezanne, the eccentric and troubled painter, kill her when she spurned his advances?
The clues - Solange’s stained gloves, a scrap of painted canvas at the murder scene, and Cezanne’s paintings depicting shocking violence against a woman who resembles Solange – implicate the painter. But Westerbury’s sketchy past and volatile behavior cast doubt on Cezanne’s guilt.
Local judge Bernard Martin’s investigation is hampered by Inspector Albert Franc, who has his own agenda when it comes to solving the crime. Forced to keep important clues and testimonies from Franc, Martin struggles with feelings of incompetence as the investigation deepens. As Martin delves into the mysterious pasts of both the painter and the victim, he comes to a shocking realization that blows the case wide open.
While the subplots and characters in the novel are interesting, Cezanne's Quarry doesn’t become truly gripping until the surprise twist toward the end. The story moves along at a good pace, its omniscient narrator providing in-depth insight into the major characters. Despite this, Pope skillfully leaves the reader wondering who the murderer is until the final chapters. Cezanne's Quarry: A Mystery is a good read for historical fiction lovers and murder mystery fans alike.