Quite a mixed bag of a book this. Whilst the novel goes back and forth between the time periods the story needs to cover, the chronological order is: Pre-History. Medieval Middle Ages. Second World War. Modern day. Quite a spread and unusually (from my point of view anyway) all set in France. Though all the better for that, I say.
It is however, a bit of a mixed success. The story hangs around a series of interlocking cave chambers that are discovered in modern times, with cave paintings that are the rival to or better than, those found at other comparable sites like Lascaux. The new cave system’s paintings near the French village of Ruac (which seems to be a fictional place) are, apart from being much better, also much, much older. But why have the caves remained hidden until now? Our ‘guide’ through the story, Luc Simard is an archaeologist called to a Monastery where a rare book is found that needs de-coding and preserving. By accident, he and his friend, an expert in book preservation, stumble across the caves nearby the Abbey and make the link between the paintings and the book – and a secret many people have and still are fighting and killing to protect.
It is all handled quite effectively. The pace is excellent, with a measured build up to around the middle of the novel, where the hero is beginning to put deus and deus together and realise he’s neither alone in his quest, nor safe. From there, it goes up several gears and becomes quite a tense race to the final conclusion.
Whilst technically it is all handled very well, it doesn’t really reach the peaks it could have done. It stays in the lowlands. It doesn’t really develop the series of interesting incidents with possibilities, into anything more substantial. I think this might be to do with trying to touch too many novel-type bases. It’s part Clan of the Cave Bear, part medieval mystery whodunnit – drags in the Templars of course – part WWII drama and part modern day suspense novel. I was left a little not let down, but just feeling ‘oh well’, when I finished. I am going to recommend it to you, but more as a diverting and reasonably interesting read for a couple of days, rather than a novel that will change your life or live on in your memory longer than it took to read this…