I admit that I'm an armchair traveler. I enjoyed traveling to Provence with Mayle's A Year In Provence. Not too long after, I traveled with Frances Mayes to Tuscany in Under the Tuscan Sun. My latest visit was to a place I've always wanted to visit - Morocco.
The Caliph's House: A Year In Casablanca by Tahir Shah continues the tradition set by Mayle and Mayes. Inspired by the Moroccan vacations of his childhood, Shah buys Dar Khalifa, a crumbling ruin of a mansion that once belonged to Casablanca's caliph, or spiritual leader. An empty house is thought to attract jinns, invisible spirits unique to the Islamic world. Shah copes with a new culture, the guardians of the house, repairs to the house, memories of his grandfather and his own growing family. I laughed. I was entranced. When I was finished, I wanted more of this exotic land . I was happy to read that In Arabian Nights: A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams, Shah continues his adventures in Morocco collecting a treasury of traditional stories. I have it on my wish list.
My guess is now you are going to say "WAIT! Still Life is not a travel book. It is a mystery. And, you'd be correct. is a mystery complete with murder and solution. It is also a visit to Three Pines, a small, magical village not too far from Montreal or the United States border. I can imagine sitting in front of a fire, eating, drinking cognac (and I don't like cognac), watching the villagers of Three Pines come and go. There is something about the place that is intoxicating. Even Dick enjoys reading the Three Pines books. He asked me today where the third Three Pines book was so he could start it. He's picky about his mysteries. It's not the mystery that draws him to these books by Penny -- it's the place. In Still Life, she introduces us to characters that we'll meet again and again in Three Pines: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete du Quebec (a strong, charming, happy man); Clara Morrow and her husband, Peter (both artists); Myrna who runs the new and used bookstore; Gabri at the bed and breakfast; Ruth Zardo the poet and curmudgeon. Spending time with them is not dull and boring.
A Fatal Grace is the second in the Three Pines series followed by The Cruelest Month. We both think The Cruelest Month is the best of the bunch so far. The fourth Three Pines mystery will be out the first of the year. Another for the wish list.