In A Twist of Orchids, Michelle Wan continues the travails of interior designer Mara Dunn and orchid expert Julian Wood as they continue to endure murder and bloodshed in the beautiful Dordogne
region of France. This latest chapter, infused with an exotic sense of time and place, hinges on the perils of illegal drug trafficking, a shady land speculation and the suspicious death of 85-year-old Amelie Gaillard, a beloved neighbor of Mara and Julian’s.
There seems to be very little explanation
as to why Amelie fell from the porch of the Two Sisters restaurant, flying at a
slant down the diagonal of the stairway, arms outstretched. Only the young Turk Kazim Ismet saw the woman fall. Kazim and his hard-working parents, Osman and Betil, have been running a Turkish food shop. Recently vandalized, the authorities suspect the deed was perpetrated by a group of racist thugs at the local market who beat Kazim up for no reason and perhaps pushed Amelie to her death.
As Julian extends an offer to help Osman and Betil clean up, he finds himself thrust into the ever-deepening mystery. Suddenly Kazim disappears, with no clue as to where he might have gone. Osman almost begs Julian to help search for his lost son, who was last seen riding his prized red Honda around the village. Kazim, however, is not as easy to track down as Julian first hopes.
Joseph Gaillard, Amelie's husband, is progressively going downhill with Parkinson’s. Relatives Donny and Daisy O’Connor arrive from America, convinced that Joseph needs
'round-the-clock professional care in a proper nursing facility. Mara, however, wants Joseph to live out his own life in his own house on his own land. Events get complicated when Mara learns that Joseph is being plagued by terrifying nightmares, certain that someone is stalking him through the house at night.
A parallel plot involves Mara, Julian and local Investigator Jacques Compagnon investigating a series of daring robberies occurring in the area
after which the only evidence left is a rhyme. This insolence unsettles Compagnon, and he grows restlessness and discontent, convinced
that the latest crime spree is being spearheaded by “Ton-and a Half” Luca, a local gangland murderer and illicit purveyor of heroin.
As Wan’s tale of ambition and greed plays out, the violently jealous become the nastily competitive. Mara and Julian discover that a consortium has plans for an eighteen-hole golf course adjoining Joseph’s property, the funding somehow linked to Luca’s lucrative drug trade. There
are also the odd machinations of Adelheid Besser, who specializes in medicinal properties of Julian’s orchids and has a reputation for ferocious acquisitiveness. And what has happened to Joseph’s daughter, Christine Gaillard, who
- like Kazim - has suddenly dropped out of sight?
Mara and Julian surprisingly become the lead detectives and saviors in the investigation, determined to find Amelie’s murderer as they string together the facts
as they search for the missing stakeholders in a landscape that seems constantly imbued with human fumbling. Fast-paced
and with an eye for the twisted nastiness of the criminal underworld, Wan’s latest offers up
an unconventional cast of exotic characters, all tossed against the bucolic Dordogne landscape in a tightly-knit drama of greed, ambition, and the corruptive nature of money.