Congratulations, Mr Walker! You've turned an astonishingly simply premise into a superbly crafted novel that leaps over centuries and links three vastly different worlds!
Major Phillip Manners has inherited a piece of rock from his father, a World War II veteran who with his undercover Resistance cohorts including the current French president, François Malrand, was instrumental in slowing down a German Panzer division trying to reach Normandy to defend the occupation of France against the Allied D-Day invasion. But this piece of rock is much more than a simple piece of rock. It is actually a painting executed in the prehistoric style of cave painting that reached its artistic peak in Lascaux, France, in the Vézère River valley. When Manners took the painting to Lydia Dean, an expert in prehistoric art with a London auction house, to establish its value, she was shaken to her core. Immediately understanding its uniqueness and probable priceless nature, she also understood that it probably implied the existence of a hitherto undiscovered cave in France of the quality and magnitude of the caves at Lascaux - in short, another national French treasure trove of undiscovered art.
And the three linked stories? Simple ... first, the prehistoric world of Cro-Magnon man, 17,000 years ago in the Vézère, Lot and Dordogne River valleys in which the cave art was actually created; second, the brutal world of WW II occupied France in which the painting was accidentally discovered; and, finally, the modern day world of art, auctions, valuation and even national politics.
The story itself was quite enough to grab me but the writing ... well, that just put this wonderful novel right over the top. Walker's description of ice age Europe rivals anything produced by Jean Auel, William Sarabande or the Gears. In fact, for me, the brightest spot in the entire novel was his attempt to deal with the anthropological mystery of what ISN'T portrayed in the neolithic art in the Périgord caves - reindeer, the prime source of tools, clothing and food for the region, landscape and, of course, people. Walker's breathtaking story of the French Resistance, the local hatred of the Vichy turncoats, the struggle between the Communists and the Gaullists and the general brutal nature of a world at war is the equal of any of the great WW II authors such as Jack Higgins or Leon Uris. Lastly, his foray into the modern world of simple but compelling storytelling reminded me of the skills of such authors as Jeffrey Archer or Ken Follett.
Highly recommended. Four stars would have been five stars if the author and editors had thought to include a much needed map of the entire Périgord region.
P.S. Does anyone know why so many of the area's town names end in "-ac"?