Get Blog Posts Via Email

View RSS Feed


THE CROWDED GRAVE by Martin Walker: Book Review

A return to the French countryside of Dordogne is as pleasurable as always.  Going back to St. Denis seems in some ways a step back in time to a simpler, quieter life, with the village chief of police knowing everyone in town and interpreting the law in ways to make life more agreeable.  But things, even in this village, cannot stay so agreable, or else there would be no mystery to solve.

An international team of archaeologists has returned to St. Denis to finish excavating areas they had uncovered the year before.  Bruno Courreges, the village’s chief of police, gets a call from the team’s leader, Horst Vogelstern, to report the finding of a corpse buried in the field where the team is working.

“Congratulations.  Isn’t that what you wanted to find,” responds Bruno.  Yes, is Horst’s reply, but this corpse appears to be wearing a St. Christopher’s medal and a Swatch.

Other things are going on in St. Denis as well.  Two farms have been vandalized–one is a farm that breeds geese that are sold to make foie gras, the specialty of the region.  And to further complicate matters, there is a new magistrate who has been appointed to St. Denis, and she is anti-hunting and a vegetarian.  What were the powers-that-be thinking when they chose her?

In the midst of all the above, a summit is being held in town with ministers from France and Spain.  The goal is to reach an agreement between the two countries on the issue of Basque terrorism, a problem for both nations.  The Basques have been trying to establish a separate country in the northern part of Spain for fifty years, and there are areas of France that also have a substantial number of the ethnic minority.  There has always been Basque-related terrorism, but the incidents are increasing in number and getting more violent.

Bruno is also dealing with some personal problems.  His former lover, Isabelle, who left St. Denis for a very important position in Paris, will be returning as part of the security force for the summit.  The parting between Bruno and Isabelle was difficult on both sides.  Between her ambition and his attachment to his village, a combined future for them appears out of the question.  But that doesn’t negate the feelings on both sides.

Adding to that romantic mix is Bruno’s neighbor Pamela, an Englishwoman who has established a home in the village.  She and Bruno also have a relationship, but, like Isabelle, Pamela’s stay in St. Denis may not be a long one.

Martin Walker sets a beautiful scene in this novel, as in his previous ones.  He succeeds in making all his characters stand out and their love for their home totally understandable.  Anyone who is planning to go to France or who even merely dreams of visiting that country owes it to himself/herself to read the five novels  in the series.

Martin Walker is a journalist, historian, and author of several non-fiction books.  You can read more about him at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Reads blog at this web site.








Leave a Reply