Julian Wood is pottering in his workroom when he gets a call from a woman who needs his botanical expertise, particularly his knowledge of orchids. Twenty years ago, Bedie a young woman hiking in the forest in the southwestern forest of France in the area of the Dordogne disappeared. The only clue in all those years to finally come to light is a camera with the film still intact. The girl’s twin sister, Mara has had the film developed and it reveals a series of landscapes and very good pictures of orchids. One orchid in particular has never been seen in this area before. This series of pictures might help in the location of Bedie’s last day if the area of the orchids can be identified.
Aside from the exotic plants the countryside is peopled with eccentric characters. There is a woman nicknamed ‘hoe’ because she was lethal with one in her hand, with a hulk of a son who communicated with few words and is thought to be unusual. There is a local well-known family who live in the ‘chateau’ with a sad history and the locals are protective of them. There are others who have lived in the area since the time of Bedie’s disappearance. Of course Julian himself has been somewhat of a hermit and he does have an interest in horticulture and orchids.
The book is rich is descriptions of the Dordogne and is spiced up with savory details of French cooking. The theme ultimately is one of the serial killer preying on young women and Mara does not know whom to trust. But for a killer to hide so well in plain sight he must have on very good camouflage. You or I would possibly think him very likeable, non?
Michelle Wan was born in China, grew up in the US, and has lived in India, England, France and Brazil. She lives now in Canada and visits the Dordogne yearly visiting to photograph and chart wild orchids. The next in her series is THE ORCHID SHROUD.