The Caves of Etretat by Matt Chatelain
Publisher: Matt Chatelain
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (300 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia
Canadian bookstore owner Paul Sirenne is thrust into a quest for answers when his parents are found murdered, their bodies cut up into the letters H.N. A note sent before his father's murder drives Sirenne to seek out the roots of a long-forgotten family secret.
He heads to the town of Etretat, France, on the trail of a hundred year old mystery hidden in the pages of 'The Hollow Needle', by Maurice Leblanc. Together with Leblanc's great-granddaughter, Sirenne unearths puzzles, codes and historical mysteries, exposing a secret war for control of a cave fortress in Etretat's chalk cliffs.
'THE CAVES OF ETRETAT' is the first in a four-book epic adventure following Paul Sirenne, an average man unknowingly manipulated into becoming the key in the final phase of a complex conspiracy spanning millennia. Inextricably woven into history, the series re-writes everything we know in a non-stop rollercoaster of a ride where nothing is ever as it seems.
Does the self proclaimed “armchair detective” have what it takes to solve a very real and life altering mystery?
One of the things I like most about The Caves of Etretat is that Paul is an ordinary guy who's called to do extraordinary things. Paul perfectly embodies the term “armchair detective.” He's extremely smart and loves solving complex mysteries and puzzles, but Paul has never really ventured beyond his comfort zone. Paul is forced to take action when his parents are murdered. It isn’t long before what starts out as a murder mystery is revealed to be a multifaceted secret spanning hundreds of years that directly involves one of the twentieth century’s most notorious men.
Once Paul realizes the magnitude of his discoveries, he's overwhelmed by the responsibility he's being called to shoulder. It would have been completely understandable if he had wanted to walk away from it all. Instead, Paul shows some real backbone and presses on. I’m absolutely certain that he's exactly the sort of man who can bear the secret of the caves. Not only is he intelligent, but he's also thoughtful and loyal. He carefully considers the consequences of his actions before making any moves, but he still manages to get himself into several scrapes. The scene involving the car chase is particularly memorable. All these traits make Paul a great character. However, the icing on the cake is his relationship with Raymonde, Leblanc’s great granddaughter. I found myself smiling as Paul blushed and stumbled over his words when trying to explain his situation to her. Their tender romance plays out in such a simple and realistic way that it truly helps ground the story.
Out of all the secondary characters, O’Flanahan is certainly the most fun. He's brash and a bit overbearing at times, but he means well and is a good friend to Paul. O’Flanahan’s outspoken attitude sets off Paul’s more introverted personality very well, and I look forward to reading more about him in the coming books.
Mr. Chatelain obviously spent a great deal of time writing and researching this story. Everything seems to be very well thought out in order to make the theory about Hitler and the caves sound plausible. All the information is organized so well I was able to follow his reasoning without any serious moments of disbelief.
The pacing of The Caves of Etretat is also very well done. The majority of the plot involves Paul reading or discussing the secret of the caves with various characters. When it seems as if the plot might get a bit bogged down by all the dialogue something exciting happens to shake things up a bit. This mix of research, action, and looming sense of danger from the murderer is perfectly balanced and keeps the story moving at a nice pace.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Caves of Etretat, and I will certainly be looking for the next installment in the series. Long after I had finished reading, I was contemplating the theories presented in its pages and wondering what would happen if they turned out to be true. Anyone looking for a great conspiracy theory filled to the brim with suspense should definitely check out The Caves of Etretat.