Newcomer Sanders begins a series of expatriate novels set in France’s Dordogne region with the funeral of Gaston Caminade, who was crushed by an oak he was trying to fell. Was it an accident or murder? A dozen years ago, his elder brother Louis wound up dead in the lake. Was he the victim of an alcoholic misadventure or murder? And what will become of the third brother? The locals, including a doctor who examined Gaston’s body, seem disinclined to ponder the Caminades’ fate, but the Englishman from La Berthonie, their new neighbor who’s bought the half of the Duroc house that’s not boarded up is soon so enmeshed in sorting through the relationships among the Caminades, the deaf, drunken Englishman from Pisse-Chevre, the old Dutchwoman, her demented son and her collection of Old Master paintings, and a wartime collaborator who informed on the Marquis that he almost becomes a victim himself. Strange noises emanate from the boarded-up half of his house. Strange faces appear at his window. Stranger still, several of his fellow expatriates turn out not to be expatriates at all—a fact that eventually leads to an explanation of the Caminade brothers’ deaths and the Englishman from La Berthonie’s departure for a two-room bed-sit in Islington.
Complex, well told, and quietly menacing, with a barbed, decidedly anti-picturesque slant on village life. Discerning readers will queue up for Book Two.