Lt. Bruno Courrèges asks how a visiting American student could have ended up in a well in the peaceful, yet strangely homicidal, Périgord village of St. Denis.
All too soon after she’s reported missing, Bruno finds Claudia Muller, an art history Ph.D. student at Yale, in a disused well in the courtyard of the Limeuil castle along with a cat who’s lucky enough to still be alive. Did cat-loving Claudia climb into the inadequately protected well to rescue the animal and end up tumbling in herself? Was she impaired by the drugs in her system? Or did someone deliberately toss her in? Suspicion quickly focuses on two men: Laurent Darrignac, the falconer who met and befriended her the very day he was released from a 10-year prison sentence for killing three Boy Scouts in a drunken driving accident, and Pierre de Bourdeille, the legendary art expert with whom Claudia had been working. On the face of it, both choices seem impossible: Laurent, who professed sincere repentance for the accident that jailed him, had clearly been attached to Claudia, and it’s not obvious how de Bourdeille, a 90-something-year-old disabled by the bullet that made him a hero of the Resistance and confined for years to a wheelchair, would have had either the temperament or the physical ability to commit the crime. But the case is complicated by the news that Claudia had questioned some of her mentor’s attributions, striking at his formidable reputation, and de Bourdeille’s plan to leave his collection to the town of St. Denis, depriving his longtime housekeeper, Nathalie Bonnet, of the inheritance she’d grown to expect. Walker weaves the details of Bruno’s unruffled investigation together with all the obligatory social rituals fans of the series (A Taste for Vengeance, 2018, etc.) have come to expect.
A detective story whose dramatic trajectory is marked less by its rising suspense than by the increasingly elaborate meals consumed by the hero, who prepares one of its most endearing menus for the sometime lover who’s just spent the night with him.