Title – The Devil’s Cave
Author – Martin Walker
Published – August 2012
Genre – Crime fiction
I have to apologise because the presence of the world’s largest sporting event on my doorstep seems to have interrupted my blogging. It started with a visit by the torch, then there was cycling through the nearby villages, and finally 24 channels of TV. It’s been hard to tear myself away, but in a few days it will all be gone & life will have to return to normal.
So attacking the pile of books which I should review ‘The Devil’s Cave’ by Martin Walker, sent by the kind folk at Quercus, is top of the stack. I have to confess that until I went to Crimefest I hadn’t heard of Martin, and even then, with all the new authors I was introduced to, he didn’t strike me as an author I needed to rush out and buy. How wrong I was!
The Devil’s Cave is the fifth title in the Bruno Courrèges series – more commonly called “Bruno, Chief of Police”. Bruno lives and polices in a rural town in the Périgord region of France – which sounds idyllic and I could only visualise a sort of French “Midsomer”. It’s also easy to draw parallels with another crime fiction series set in Continental Europe and featuring a food-loving policemen – Andrea Camilleri. Possibly describing the book as a cross between Midsomer Murders and Inspector Montalbano does it no favours though!
Coming in at the fifth book in a series does make you wonder if you will feel as if you’ve missed too much, or if there will be too much explanation of what’s gone before getting in the way of the current story. I think that by and large this struck the right balance, I knew enough to follow the story and characters, but not too much. Although there were one or two references to Bruno’s past which may spoil the earlier titles if I go back to them.
So what about the story? The book opens with the body of a naked woman in a boat drifting down the river and into the town. At first thought to be a suicide, the initial puzzle is to identify the dead woman. Rumours of Satanism abound and soon enterprising townsfolk are cashing in on the sudden increase in visitors to the town. While Bruno tries to work on the case he has to deal with the more mundane aspects of his job – a husband who has beaten his wife, and a Mayor who is keen to support a new development near the town. Bruno’s personal life is also interesting with several ladies featuring as well as a fair amount of cooking!
The mysteries at the heart of the story are well thought out and make for an interesting story, Bruno is an engaging character, and who could fail to be charmed by the French setting. The final showdown was quite complex, but also given a decent proportion of the book – not crammed into a few pages at the end. This was a real antidote to some of the darker crime fiction I’ve read recently.
I’m looking forward to exploring more of the Bruno, Chief of Police titles.
Score – 4/5