First Sentence: Bruno Courrèges, chief of police of the small French town of St. Denis, awoke a few seconds before six, just as the dawn was breaking.
A centuries-old religious artifact, thought to be hidden within the caves under the former Knights Templar stronghold Château de Commarque, brings murder and terrorism to the normally peaceful village of St. Denis.
A map! There is a special place reserved or authors and publishers who provide a map. Not only does a map provide clarification of the setting, but allows the readers to be part of the community and area in which the story is told.
There are wonderful descriptions of the lovely bucolic setting which are then shattered. The beginning deals with such a relevant and painful topic, but it also serves as a good introduction to Bruno and his life, including his past—“Anyone could take one glance at my wardrobe, he mused, and tell the story of my life: the army and then the police, all the signs of a man more at home in uniform than in civilian dress.”
Bruno is an excellent character; fully-dimensional and the type of leader for whom one would wish. He knows his town and those who live there, and is well respected. He is no light character, however, as his military background proves. What is particularly well done is that he is surrounded by characters who are as interesting and well-developed as is he.
Walker works the history of the area seamlessly into the plot. There is fascinating information about French labour laws, the Paleolithic figures and the various theories related to them. He joins the past to the present and makes both come alive in comparing the weekly market of today to how it might have been 700 years ago. Add to that the technology which provides an identity for the murder victim and one is brought sharply into the present, including a discussion of fake news--“It doesn’t have to exist in reality as long as people give it a kind of reality by talking and writing and arguing about it.”
Set in France, one knows there will be food and wine—“He planned fish soup, followed by blanquette de veau with rice, salad with cheese and pears poached in spiced wine for dessert.” There are even descriptions of how the dishes are prepared.
“The Templars’ Last Secret” is definitely not a cozy. It deals with terrorism and fanaticism. It is a book that has it all; mystery, danger, history, and good food—all of it fascinating.
THE TEMPLARS’ LAST SECRET (Pol Proc-Bruno Courrèges-St. Denis, France-Contemp) – VG+
Walker, Martin – 10th in series