THE VOICE OF THE SPIRITS

Written by Xavier-Marie Bonnot

Review written by Sue Lord


THE VOICE OF THE SPIRITS
Maclehose Press
RRP: £7.99
Released: 25th April 2013
Pbk

The Voice of the Spirits opens with a prologue, New Guinea 1936, Robert Ballencort and his guide Kaingara are exploring remote areas. Ballencort is collecting artefacts including masks and heads, sending them back to, Marseilles.

2006, Commandant Michel de Palma receives an anonymous tip-off which takes him to a mansion by the coast. In the study, which is filled with masks and painted skulls, he finds the body of Dr Delorme. The face covered by a tribal mask and the cause of death is not clear. De Palma hears the haunting sound of a flute from the floors above.

The lives of the Papuan tribe pervade this book as De Palma studies the murdered doctor's voyage to seventy years earlier, accompanied by Robert Ballancort. In the course of his investigations De Palma and his team uncover an art-smuggling ring working out of Marseilles. The main suspect is found dead, killed in the same way as Dr Delorme. Were the dead men victims of spirits intent on revenge or is the motive more mundane?

There is much detail in this book, the way of life in the forests of New Guinea, head-hunters, their beliefs and descriptions of artefacts. The story lurches back and forth in time and is often confusing. Characters are not well drawn and the main protagonist is referred to by three different names (Michel, de Palma, and Baron) again, this can be very confusing and segues are thin on the ground. The sometimes, clunky translation from the original French certainly does not help the style of writing. Out of date English colloquialisms like 'Hop it,' ‘manor,’ and ‘mate,’ jump off the page. All this is a shame, the story, plot and ‘twist’ are sound.

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