A fourth novel from journalist and CNN commentator Walker (The President We Deserve: Bill Clinton, His Rise, Falls and Comebacks, 1996, etc.).
Art historian Lydia Dean, 30, works for a London auction house and is offered by Major Manners, a divorced British officer, a large flat chunk of clay with a marvelously well-painted bull on it, which his father brought from France after WWII. She dates it at 15,000 b.c.<\h>, obviously from a prehistoric somewhere like Lascaux. The scaled-down bull on this painting, however, is ten or twenty times smaller than a bull in any known cave painting, the smallness and excellence of the image pointing to an advance in that art. Lydia explains to Major Manners that his late father’s rock is of such high historic interest that no auction house would touch it, since it has no provenance and quite possibly will cause an international scandal should France demand it back. And then the rock is burgled from the auction house. Time leaps backward 17,000 years, and we’re with cave folk in the Vézère Valley, where the apprentice young cave painter Deer (he’s great at swimming deer) has fallen for young Little Moon, herself secretly a gifted painter. But Keeper of the Bulls, the top cave painter, wants Little Moon for himself. Then we leap to 1943 and Major Manners’s father, Captain Jack Manners, of the Special Operations Executive, landing in France to help the Resistance, which is disastrously split into political factions that foresee their own postwar battles. Even so, Jack must help blow up bridges and attract Nazi focus away from the forthcoming D-day invasion. Eventually, he stores his large stock of armaments in a cave accidentally reopened by a German mortar shell. Meanwhile, Deer and Little Moon run off and find their own white chalk cave where—freeing art from the shackles of religion—they explore new dimensions in rendering and portraiture.
The cave art is great, the rest less gripping.