LANDSCAPE WITH VERY STILL LIFE
A French woman magistrate inquiring into an art theft becomes implicated in a French Connection drugs racket with Marseilles gangs. She quarrels then has to work an English insurance detective, and they fall in love. Together they beat the racket and save her son from the the vengeance of the Marseilles Godfathers.
Anne de Chamfort, a French examining magistrate, is investigating the theft of nine modern masterpieces from her brother-in-law’s manor house near Aix-en-Provence. Anne is a widow, aged thirty-nine, with two sons, one of them adopted after his father, a Marseilles criminal she was defending, hanged himself.
When her sons, Roger and Blaise, are suspected of having been involved with the art thieves and she is forced to surrender the inquiry to another judge, she decides to prove them innocent by nailing the criminals.
Reluctantly she accepts the help of Mark Villars, the English insurance investigator, who suspects there is something bizarre about the theft of a fortune in paintings followed by an impossible ransom demand.
They penetrate the Marseilles underworld, ruled by Corsican caîds like Jo Lamert and the Benelli Brothers. Already these Godfathers have had one arrested suspect murdered in prison and another one shot.
When a stolen paintings turns up in Florence, Villars and Anne go there to examine it. Villars realises it is a brilliant copy but as he suspects Anne, an amateur painter, he says nothing
Another person making inquiries is Roger, Anne’s adopted son. He suspects Blaise, his half-brother, has been hooked on drugs and involved in the theft by one of the Marseilles gangs; he also sees Fabienne, the wife of Raoul de Chamfort, is too friendly with the Godfather, Lambert. By checking on his half-brother, Roger finds heroin worth millions and realises the art theft was executed to enable Lambert to buy the drug consignnient.
Villars is suspected by the gang of hi-jacking the drug and is beaten so badly he would have died but for Anne, who nurses him until he recovers. They discover their love for each other.
Villars surprises Roger with the heroin and together they plan to outwit the Marseilles gang bosses. With the connivance of Police Commissaire Dalban, they plant the drug on the innocent Benellis which starts a gang feud, decimates the Marseilles underworld and finally forces the admission that Lambert carried out the art theft at the behest of Raoul de Chamfort, who paid him to do it.
Villars has to tell Anne her son is a drug-addict who gave the keys and plans of the manor-house to Lambert, he also proves to Anne that the stolen paintings were fakes, that her brother-in4aw had paid a local artist to make copies of his nine masterpieces and it was these copies th~t were stolen and transported into Italy. He also has to confess the stolen paintings were only incidental to his investigation. As a detective working with an international anti-drug squad it was the heroin and the French Connection that really interested him.
And their love for each other.
NOTE: There is also my French translation of this novel,
NATURE MORTE SUR FOND NOIR