A TOUCH OF THE SUN
A TOUCH OF THE SUN is set in Sacremont, a Provençal village which was quiet until the discovery of a sarcophagus containing a mummified body under its oldest chapel. The mayor says it’s a saint and dreams of pilgrimages and tourism; the doctor contends it will ruin a quiet village. They start a feud over the issue until the doctor proves the body belongs to a woman who had returned from a Nazi death camp to find the villagers who had betrayed her and had now murdered her. It takes all the guile of the Bishop of Aix to settle the quarrel and resolve the riddle of the murder. 65,000 words.
Sacremont was a sleepy Provençal village on the road to nowhere—until someone blew a hole in its ancient chapel to disclose a Roman sarcophagus containing a mummified body. Being Provence, land of legends, the villagers see this as the body of a saint and miracle-worker. Even their priest looks on it as a divine revelation much to the embarrassment of his bishop.
For the hard-headed mayor, the discovery promises prosperity and the salvation of his village. For the famous artist in the village, it seems a chance to paint his chef d’oeuvre. Others dread the find will expose their past and even threaten their lives.
Only the village doctor, Cabrol, foresees the harm this skeleton might do the village.
First to suffer is Achille, the mayor; his mistress, Sophie Bellon, who runs a brothel, gets ready to flee before the village is invaded by tourists who might reveal her scandalous past.
Grimaldi, the artist, also has something to hide, having fathered a child by the local beauty, Magali Richoux, now a drunk. Dr. Cabrol is in love with her. And her son, Paul, is bent on destroying the painter.
Paul’s girlfriend, Éliane, is also troubled by the crypt skeleton, for she suspects her secretive parents of involvement with it. Why, she asks, so many visits from Sabine Lemaître, the village witch who is privy to all its secrets?
Cabrol is called to the first miracle cure, given credence by the young and naive priest Realizing the danger if word about the ‘miracle’ gets out, he investigates the crypt and discovers the skeleton is that of a woman recently murdered.
Sacremont’s ‘miracle’ reaches the ears of Bishop Sanguinetti of Aix-en-Provence, once a village curate near Sacremont. A colorful character, he stays incognito in Sophie Bellon’s dubious hotel and teams up with Cabrol to seek the truth. When they reopen the sarcophagus, Cabrol realizes the original skeleton has been put back, proving the murderer is still active.
When the mayor discovers Sabine has been blackmailing Sophie and others, he goes to teach her a lesson. Cabrol finds her dead and suspects the mayor, more so when Sophie bolts. But he keeps his mouth shut.
Éliane’s parents, the Melleys, flee just when Cabrol and the bishop link them with the murdered woman. They are on the point of solving the mystery when Grimaldi’s mansion goes up in flames. Aided by the painter’s young mistress, whom he has seduced, Paul Richoux has torched all the nudes Grimaldi did of his mother; he stabs the painter, who wounds him with a pistol. Paul flees into the maquis.
Called to an accident, Cabrol finds the Melleys have crashed into a fire tender. Éliane’s mother is dead, her father only has time to confess to Cabrol before he, too, dies.
Melley tells how they murdered Simone Natanson and hid her body in the sarcophagus; she was part of a Resistance network they betrayed to the Gestapo. She survived the extermination camp, traced them and came to kill them both. Melley also admits to murdering Sabine, who was blackmailing them.
Paul is found wounded and saved by Cabrol. Bishop Sanguinetti squares things with Grimaldi and forces the mayor to drop any notion of turning Sacremont into a place of pilgrimage He promises to found a monastery near the village, consecrates the chapel and lets Sacremont settle into the quiet, Provençal village it always has been.