Eloise Caussade is a courageous young Frenchwoman, raised on a bull farm near Arles in the Camargue. She idolises her older brother, André, and when he leaves to become an Intelligence Officer working for the CIA in Paris to help protect France, she soon follows him.
But everything changes when André is injured – a direct result of Eloise’s actions. Unable to work, André returns to his father’s farm, but Eloise’s sense of guilt and responsibility for his injuries sets her on the trail of the person who attempted to kill him.
Eloise finds her hometown in a state of unrest and conflict. Those who are angry at the construction of the American airbase nearby, with its lethal nuclear armaments, confront those who support it, and anger flares into violence, stirred up by Soviet agents.
I’ve fallen a little behind with Kate Furnivall’s novels so I decided to read her latest release but I struggled to get into this one mainly because I didn’t really care for the characters or the plot. Set in the 1950s, the south of France has become a battleground between the Americans and the Soviets as a result of the Cold War. The Americans, intent on stopping the spread of Communism, have established a nuclear airbase near Eloise’s home but they have very little regard for the feelings of the townspeople which causes conflict.
When Eloise returns home, she discovers her father’s prize bull has been slaughtered but it takes a while for her to realise the killing was an act of revenge for her father’s decision to sell some property to the Americans so they can extend the airbase. Eloise is appalled her father would even do such a thing and the Caussade family find themselves unpopular with the locals. However, Eloise is more concerned with the health of her brother, André, who was severely injured in a car accident in Paris for which she feels partly responsible.
Eloise, a private detective, has always idolised her brother, an agent for the CIA, and they often pretended to be spies during their childhood so they have a well-established secret code. However, it soon becomes obvious André has been keeping some big secrets from her when he is accused of being a double agent. Determined to smoke out the people trying to kill her brother, Eloise soon finds herself a target and no longer knows who to trust.
While Eloise is undoubtedly a strong character, she makes a lot of poor judgements and I found myself getting frustrated with her a lot. She is also a very hard character to like, mainly because she is so stubborn and never listens to people. The budding romance she develops with Léon, a police inspector, suffers from a lack of warmth and never convinces as a consequence. Eloise also has a poor relationship with her father who seems to blame her for everything that has gone wrong within the family but I never really got to grips with his issues as he is just as remote as his daughter.
While I have no complaints about the setting in the Camargue as Furnivall’s vivid descriptions make you feel like you are really there. The area is different from the rest of France in that it is mainly made up of either lakes or marshland and Furnivall makes the most of its natural beauty in the story. The airforce base mentioned is entirely fictional as most US bases were in the north of France, along the border with Belgium and Germany, until they were withdrawn completely after France’s withdrawal from NATO in 1966.
The plot between the Americans and the Soviets gets so contrived, it becomes increasingly hard to swallow and the story is all over the place. I’m afraid this one missed the mark for me.