Monday, March 30, 2015

THE DEVIL'S CAVE by Martin Walker

Some things happen at the strangest times.

Martin Walker fills his book The Devil’s Cave with cruel irony.

Around Easter in St. Denis, France, someone notices a dinghy with a body in it floating down the river.

As it turns out, someone murdered the nude woman. She had clearly taken part in a Satanic ritual at The Devil’s Cave, a local tourist attraction near the village.

At the same time, a wealthy developer with local ties is to build a new tourist hotel in St. Denis. He fronts for a myriad of interlocking companies. Police Chief Benoit “Bruno” Courrréges suspects fraud. He thinks those promoting the hotel are conning his boss, the mayor, and he sets out to prove it.

Bruno is a deceiving character. He seems to be a small-town bumpkin, but he is much more. He is an experienced soldier who fought in Bosnia. He has a network of friends who help him find all kinds of information. And he is able to quietly manipulate things to avert tragedy for St. Denis.

As always in the Bruno stories, the backstory reaches into the region’s history.

Also, we again see Bruno and the townspeople as real people. Bruno searches for a runaway daughter. He comforts the daughter and her mother as they face an unexpected tragedy.

Bruno gets a new dog. He rides his horse Hector daily. He holds a special kind of religious faith--heaven won’t be heaven unless it has dogs and horses in it.

Father Sentout performs an exorcism in the cave. The fundamentalist priest insists that animals don’t have souls and won’t end up in heaven, but Bruno knows better.

And as always, the book has a slam-bang ending.

These are wonderful stories, complex and simple at the same time. The intricate plots balance with the simple life of St. Denis. And Bruno is the ideal character in which simplicity and complexity merge.

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