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Thursday 22 December 2016

‘The First Man’ by Xavier-Marie Bonnot

Translated from the French by Justine Phipps
Published by Maclehose Press,
1 September 2016.
ISBN: 978-0-85705-393-0 (PB)

An experienced diver dies while exploring the prehistoric Le Guen cave, near Marseille. Commandant Michel de Palma, on the verge of early retirement, finds the death drags him back to a case that has haunted him for a decade: the murders committed by Thomas and Christine Autran. Both are now in prison, Thomas for savage murders according to prehistoric ritual, and his sister for helping cover the crimes. Then Thomas escapes ...
This novel linked the French police investigation with a number of fascinating theories about the belief systems of early man as shown in his cave paintings. De Palma and his friend, Maistre, are a genial couple, and de Palma takes his impending retirement as an excuse to waive normal procedure as he tries to find out who killed the diver, and why, so the feel is more of a PI than a PP. We also follow Thomas’ life in the inappropriate prison system, and are drawn to sympathise with his condition, nd the way he is treated – although it’s also clear he’s not safe to be let out. The writing is allusive and swift-moving, cryptic, so that the reader needs to keep alert – clues are thrown out, but not lingered over until all becomes clear at the end.

An intriguing French PP with an interesting background in the prehistoric grottoes of the Mediterranean coast.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Xavier-Marie Bonnot  has a PhD in History and Sociology, and two Masters degrees in History and French Literature. He is the author of The First Fingerprint and The Beast of the Camargue.

Justin Phipps is a British translator who translates from French and Russian into English. After studying modern languages and social anthropology, he has worked in overseas development and more recently as a solicitor specialising in employment law.
Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.

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