TUCKED away in the southwestern corner of France is one of the world’s most impressive collections of prehistoric art. The départment of Dordogne is known in international circles for a trio of drawcards: more than 1500 castles, abundant black truffles and the 600-plus irreplaceable Paleolithic paintings that line the Cave of Lascaux.
Within the Dordogne, Périgord is a normally sleepy, peaceful region, but in 21st-century France, extremist violence can flare without warning. Now, it seems, the Vézère Valley is being targeted – in a fictitious sense, at least.
The 10th release in Martin Walker’s ‘Bruno’ series opens with soldier-turned-village-police-chief Bruno Courrèges preparing to host the wedding in St Denis of two archaeologists.
The drafting of his speech must fit around his official duties, but in small-town rural France, policing is more often a matter of gently guiding delinquent teenagers back into the classroom than of investigating life-or-death cross-border crime.
For Bruno, the working week preceding his friends’ nuptials turns out to be an exception, however.
When the body of an unfamiliar woman is found sprawled at the foot of the once-grand Château de Commarque, with its Templar connections, it is apparent that her death was no accident. Unsuccessful attempts to identify the victim at first frustrate Bruno and his fellow law enforcers, then drive them to explore far beyond their usual boundaries – all the way to Israel and North Africa.
The trail of evidence they assemble spans thousands of years of Vézère history, beginning with the creation of the valley’s priceless artworks and extending through the Middle Ages, when knights returning from the Crusades were rumoured to have secreted their legendary treasure somewhere within the chateau.
Accompanied by his trusty basset hound Balzac, Bruno knows that for this tiny community, time to solve the mysterious killing – and in so doing stave off an infinitely bigger attack – is running out.