The cave of Lascaux may be closed to the public, but five scholars a day are allowed inside, and Nora Barnes has finagled an appointment. True, she may have fudged a bit in her letter to the authorities, but she does teach art history, and she isn’t about to miss her chance to see the world’s most famous prehistoric paintings. Nora and her high-spirited husband, Toby, are visiting the Dordogne, in the southern French region of the Aquitaine. Aware that the Dordogne’s renown for cave art is matched only by its reputation for delicious cuisine, the couple has also signed up for a cooking class at a nearby château, but they soon find that more than food is on their minds.
During their tour of the cave, another visitor is murdered. When the local inspector pegs Nora and Toby as suspects, they embark on a mission to solve the crime, tracing strange links between a Cro-Magnon symbol and a 13th-century religious cult. As they match wits with the crusty inspector, Nora finds herself immersed in the notebooks of a forgotten artist who once lived in the chteau. In sifting through the artist’s papers and uncovering old secrets, she begins to piece together the motives for the murder. But has she cooked up more trouble than she can handle?
This book was a really well-written mystery. Nora and Toby have wrangled an opportunity to go to the original, and almost exclusively sealed from the public, Lascaux cave in the Languedoc region of France, with it's magnificent 17,000 year old cave paintings. Only 5 people are allowed in, so this is an incredible thrill for them. They are unprepared for the tour to end in murder.
This is a well-crafted mystery, that flows pretty well, kept my attention throughout. The story had threads that wove a tapestry of interesting aspects that held together well (staying in old chateau, research of a little known artist's work, the theft of paintings by the nazis in WWII, history of the Cathars, side stories of the people involved). It all worked quite well, and in addition to being a good mystery, had lots of information about the location and history that were fascinating.
The narrator was basically okay. Had this book not taken place in France and the script necessitated that she pronounce numerous French words and phrases, she would have been okay. (Not great, because she read a little too slowly, but certainly adequate). But my teeth are worn to nubs from gnashing them at hearing her slaughter the French language. I'm not a snob here, only have low-level ability to speak a little bit of French. But my ear sure can pick up hearing when someone doesn't have a clue, and barrels through with nobody correcting it. Do you not audition people to read these books? Surely there are narrators who are fluent in two languages who can read books that require that.
This is one of my pet peeves about Audible books. Does no one ever listen to them before releasing them? This one even has her repeating a whole line as she is reading. Yoo Hoo? Any out-of-work editors? Please apply to listen to audio books before they are released. I have a hard time blaming the narrator, because someone else hired her, and when she is not killing the French language (a gratuitously thrown in extra murder), she reads very well. Those are my thoughts. Audible, are you listening? This happens way too often, and truly Impacts the listening experience.
Future listener, just be aware, and don't let that stop you from getting this book. Reader is basically good (apart from the French) if you realize somebody else is failing to edit it properly. The book is actually quite a well crafted mystery and well worth the listen.
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