The Devil’s Cave
By Martin Walker. (Knopf, 336 pages, 24.95)
Bruno Courreges may be France’s rumply answer to Sean Connery’s dapper James Bond. The chief of police is as comfortable in his handbuilt home in the bucolic Perigord region as the sophisticated spy was in luxury hotels. Not for Bruno the fancy cars, strong drinks and fast women. Instead, he drives an office van, he’s been a locavore since long before the word existed and he is as committed to the women in his life as they’ll let him be. (That is women, plural; he is French, after all.)
As chief of police of sleepy St. Denis, he knows that it’s better to prevent crime than solve it, better to guide youthful offenders than punish them. So when a big, weird crime happens, it’s disturbing — and not only because the intrigue is gripping or because the town must grapple with whether to capitalize on the sensational events.
The black mass in a storied cave and the naked dead woman floating down the river were less interesting to me than Bruno’s attempts to cope with these assaults on his daily routine. Would he be able to make it home in time to ride and feed his horse? What would he throw together for dinner after investigating in the cold cave all day (an onion soup with venison stock, followed by a risotto with duck and mushrooms). Could he do an end-run around his higher-ups? And how, really, can Isabelle and Pamela tear themselves away from him?
Suffice it to say that Bruno solves the mystery woman’s death and this reader was stirred, not shaken.
Kathe Connair, Copy editor
Tomorrow there will be Apricots
By Jessica Soffer (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 317 pages, $24)
There are many sad and lonely characters in this novel, set in New York City: There’s Victoria, an Iraqi Jewish immigrant whose husband has just died. She’s struggling with that loss on top of mourning a daughter she gave up for adoption long ago. Dottie, her upstairs neighbor, showers Victoria with attention and is only taken for granted and despised in return. Lorca, a girl who craves the attention of her distant mother, engages in self-harm and looks for ways to please the only parent in her life. Blot, a young man estranged from his family, is in love with Lorca but can’t break though the shell she has built around herself.
Lorca is on the verge of being sent to a boarding school and is desperate to win her mother’s approval. She recalls her mother’s story of an ethnic dish she had relished years ago in a restaurant. If she could find that recipe and replicate the experience, her mother’s heart may soften. Blot, who works in a bookstore, gets involved in the search, and they discover Victoria, the owner of that cafe, which has since closed.
Victoria takes Lorca under her wing, giving her cooking lessons and eventually convincing herself that Lorca’s mother is her long-lost daughter. The story is ultimately one of hope and of finding love in unlikely places. As Victoria says, “that’s what love is, I suppose. The one thing that is most worth hoping for, and the one thing that’s most surprising when it lands. Because it’s better. It exceeds hope, makes hoping near-sighted.”
Judy Romanowich Smith, News designer