Combining Fact and Fiction

Vanessa Barrot et Noel Balen nb-def-lulu-images.jpg

Vanessa Barrot and Noël Balen, authors of the Gourmet Crime series, shared some dos and don'ts for combining fact and fiction on Janet Rudolph's Mystery Fanfare blog. 

Minced, Marinated, and Murdered, the first book in the series, is set in Lyon, France’s traditional capital of gourmet food. The novel delves deep into the juicy real details of France’s culinary history, mixing local reality and historical fact with fiction and mystery. Filled with real restaurants and people, but also an entirely fictional murder mystery, the authors know something about juggling what's real and what isn't.

They begin with "DO take inspiration from real life"...

 Click here to read the full blog post

Bonjour Paris! Interview

I just did an exclusive interview with Janet Hulstrand for Bonjour Paris about Le French Book and mysteries and thrillers. Check it out and you'll find the answers to her great questions and learn:

  • What I love most about living in France.
  • What inspired me to start Le French Book.
  • What I consider to be the main differences between mysteries, cozy mysteries, and thrillers.
  • Some comments on the challenges of translation and what values drive our publishing house.

Quenching your thirst and satisfying your palate in Lyon

I recently found a really fun blog for wine lovers: Social Vignerons. Its goal is "to showcase all the talent found in the many facets of the world of wine: its people, its places, the amazing knowledge that relates to it, the enjoyable moments with friends matching with food or traveling, the processes and products, accessories, and everything else around it…"

Not only do they have tons of great content, they also just ran a guest post by Noël Balen and Vanessa Barrot, about wines to enjoy in Lyon. I put an excerpt below.


"The richness and diversity of Lyonnais cuisine is best enjoyed when accompanied with the right wine.

When in Lyon, you can pick up any menu and you’ll find a whole gamut of wines, but the vineyards printed on the bottle can be far from local. From Bordeaux to Languedoc-Roussillon and beyond, French chefs are always on the lookout for new discoveries and surprises. However, chefs in Lyon don’t have to look far. Excellent local wines from places like Burgundy and Beaujolais are right next door..."

Read the post.


New culinary mystery series — Q&A with the authors

French writers Noël Balen and Vanessa Barrot

French writers Noël Balen and Vanessa Barrot

The Frenchman Noël Balen, author of the made-for-TV Winemaker Detective series, wanted to expand from the wine cellar to the kitchen. To do so, he teamed up with Vanessa Barrot, a lawyer, writer, and inveterate food lover. Together, they cooked up the new culinary mystery series Gourmet Crimes, starting with Minced, Marinated, and Murdered, which will be available in English on February 20. Below we asked them a few questions.

Can you explain how you chose your main characters?
We wanted a female sleuth as the main character because the first memories we all generally have about food are linked to our mother’s cooking. Laure Grenadier is a fortysomething, dynamic, urban woman with high standards in her personal and professional life. Her sidekick, Paco, provides another perspective on French cooking and, of course, adds to the suspense and depth of the story.

Many of the restaurants you mention really exist. How do you choose the ones you include?
We test them. We spend a lot of time with the chefs, talking about how they see their job and about their cooking philosophy. We are struck by the humanity and humility of the chefs we speak to, and their awareness of being part of a lineage, a link in a global chain, along with those who produce the food. We also hear about the darker sides, the sterile rivalries, the toughness of the job and the cruelty you sometimes find behind the scenes.

How do you co-write these books?
We write about half the chapters each. We first come up with a plot line, and then based on our affinities with the story, we each write the chapters we want to write. We write alone, but discuss all the key decisions… in the kitchen. And that’s the only place we manage to do it.

What defines a good restaurant?
A good restaurant is not about price, but about wanting to share cuisine. It’s a place where you feel welcomed as a person and not just a customer. It offers an encounter. Based on these encounters, our books evolve. “These are thoughtful books… through gastronomy, you can tell so much truth about a city or a culture.”

Grab launch bonuses


Pre-orders are now open for Minced, Marinated, and Murdered, a deliciously authentic culinary mystery novel is the first of a new series set in France offering a well-balanced blend of gastronomy and suspense with mouth-watering excursions into the regions of France.

Author Noël Balen, who also pens the made-for-TV Winemaker Detective Series, has teamed up with Vanessa Barrot and created a new female sleuth for this series, which combines local reality and fiction, historical fact and culinary anecdotes, recipes and local products, providing armchair travel, culinary delight, and mystery. 

In the run up to the launch of our brand new culinary mystery series, we've put together some fun bonuses. Order it now and you'll get:

  • A collection of authentic Lyon recipes from the authors' kitchen.
  • A food lover's guide to Lyon.

These gifts will disappear forever on February 20, so get them now!


"Perfectly simmered"

We are just putting the final touches on the first in a new culinary mystery series with mouth-watering excursions into the regions of France: Gourmet Crimes. Minced, Marinated, and Murdered is a deliciously authentic mystery novel offering a well-balanced blend of gastronomy and suspense. Author Noël Balen, who also pens the made-for-TV Winemaker Detective Series, has teamed up with Vanessa Barrot and created a new female sleuth for this series, which combines local reality and fiction, historical fact and culinary anecdotes, recipes and regional products, providing armchair travel, culinary delight, and mystery.


Requiem in Yquem out today

A New Winemaker Detective Mystery

The intricate taste of greed and remorse

In the mist-covered hills of Sauternes, where the wine is luscious and the landscape beguiling, the brutal murder of an elderly couple intrigues the wine expert Benjamin Cooker and awakens memories for his dashing assistant Virgile Lanssien. Drawn into the investigation, the two journey through the storied Sauternes countryside, where the Château d’Yquem has reigned for centuries. Will the murder go unexplained and the killer remain free? The Winemaker Detective’s discernment and incessant curiosity push investigators to look deeper, while Virgile rekindles memories of his days at school and questions the meaning of his life. 

Praise for the series

“Magnificent series. Beautifully written. Fascinating characters. Intriguing story lines. Most entertaining reading I've done in many years. And, a bit educational as well.  Reminded me of the Colin Dexter books and TV series about CDI Endeavor Morse.”

“If you love to read cozies, enjoy learning about different locales and wines and intriguing sleuths then you need to check out this mystery series.”

"The series will have wide appeal within the British and American mystery-reading market, and particularly for those who enjoy a bit of armchair travel and descriptions of great French food and wine." 

Each book is an adventure...

Jean-Pierre Alaux

Jean-Pierre Alaux

As we prepare for the upcoming release of the new Winemaker Detective mystery, Requiem in Yquem, we talked to the authors Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen.

In France, there are twenty-six books in the series so far (12 published to date in the U.S.), as the series grows and evolves, do you find it easier or more difficult to fall into the story and discover new and exciting plots?

Noël Balen

Noël Balen

Each book is an adventure in and of itself. It is hard to describe the process in terms of ease or difficulty. It is true that our characters are more familiar to us, and their personalities more present, and even more complex. At the same time, each plot requires us to explore a whole new lay of the land, which in the case of this series begins with the wine region where the story takes place. It is important that we invent new stories and new approaches, that we continue to find original ideas.

You have written together now for many years, as well as writing separately. Who does what in the partnership? What are the advantages?

Yes, it's been fifteen years now that we have written together, and both of us have our own approaches. Jean-Pierre also works as a reporter, and spends a lot of time out in the vineyards, tasting, and meeting people involved in winemaking, for whom it is a passion. Noël is good at refining the story, and the two of us together have learned what their respective qualities are, and where their weak spots lie. Working together in this way, striving for high standards, we advance without looking back, knowing that the world of winemaking has a wealth of stories to be told.

The series has been adapted to television. In the U.S., it's rare for an author to be allowed much input on the screenplay or casting. How has this experience been?

It's not that different in France. Here, the series has met with great success thanks in part to the actor, Pierre Arditi, who plays the main character, and to the producers, and they work closely together to make it what it is. We are not involved in the screenplay or the casting, which is frustrating, but the laws of TV are not those of literature. We learned this as we went along.

If you could only drink one wine for the rest of your life, which would it be?

It would have to be a Cahors wine. Wines from that region have improved so much in recent years. Jean-Pierre also admits a weakness for wines from Saint-Emilion. And a Château Angélus would be a bottle to take through the pearly gates.

You both have considerable outside interests, for Noël, music among other things, for Jean-Pierre, the sea. Do these inspire your mysteries?

Our mysteries are inspired primarily by the wines, wine regions, and winemakers that each book focuses on, but our other interests inevitably get woven into the stories, either in the form of details or more on the level of sensibilities, what a character will be attentive to or how a place will be described.

Pre-orders the new Winemaker Detective mystery with bonuses!

The new Winemaker Detective mystery will whisk you away to Sauternes.

The new Winemaker Detective mystery will whisk you away to Sauternes.

In another satisfying wine novel with a French flair, authors Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen give readers a perfectly intoxicating combination of French wine, gourmet meals, and mystery in the gloriously described Sauternes wine region with all the scenery, scents, and sounds of France.

Requiem in Yquem comes out on September 12.  

We’ve put together some amazing things you get if you pre-order the book before September 12. Buy any format and you’ll get immediate access to:

  • Bittersweet Delights: The lowdown on Bordeaux’s famous canelés, with a recipe and tricks for getting them right.
  • Liquid Gold, a booklet with inside information about Sauternes wine and pictures from Château d’Yquem
  • An extended excerpt, so you can start reading now.