Three things you can depend on in one of Martin Walker’s Bruno novels: deliberate investigations, small provincial-town politics, and a full feast of French food.
The Body in the Castle Well starts with the death of a visiting art student. Claudia is a young American PhD student who is visiting St. Denis to study with an elderly scholar, Monsieur de Bourdeille. She comes from a wealthy, connected family and is at times subject to the conflicts created by her divorced parents. Splitting her time between visiting her friends and boyfriend in Paris and her research in St. Denis, Claudia seems to be living two distinct lives, one of pleasure and one of study. One night she leaves a lecture because she feels ill and is found dead down the castle well the following morning. Her toxicology report comes back showing a fair bit of drugs in her system, which makes the authorities think her death may have been an accident. But Bruno’s calculated investigation points to several possible suspects… An ex con who has just returned to town, her mentor whose own collection comes under scrutiny, and as usual, the boyfriend.
This latest installment of the Bruno series is not by any means a hard-charging thriller, but like all of Walker’s books, one that simmers and can be savored over several nights. There are a couple side-plots/ topics that are particularly enjoyable, namely, Brunos’ love of horseback riding, a short foray into falconry, and Bruno’s work on this year’s summer concert series. This book is probably accessible on its own, but might be enjoyed more if one reads the first Bruno book so to really understand the protagonist and the ins and outs of the locals. There’s enough background to help you remember the recurring characters, yet you won’t be hit over the head with long paragraphs of expostion. Like his previous books, Martin periodically goes over the evidence, which is good as a summary for the case as we make own way through the book.
It takes awhile for the pieces to fall into place, yet in the meantime, Bruno is discovering clues and the ways each suspect could be involved. The Body in the Castle Well gives the reader solid doses of Bruno, a history of the region, and the shaky world of art provenance.
4 out of 5 stars
Thank you to NetGalley, Knopf Doubleday Publishing, and the author for an advanced copy for review.