Walls of a Mind

Walls of a Mind



About the book

  • Shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel

In this fifth installment of the Aliette Nouvelle mysteries, Aliette is now, officially, Chief Inspector Nouvelle. After a difficult breakup with former boss and boyfriend Claude Neon, Inspector Aliette Nouvelle is transferred from Alsace to the south of France. She is given command of a small brigade at Saint-Brin, a sleepy town in a valley where wine is the primary industry and source of identity. When Joël Guatto, scion of an old wine-producing family, is shot dead on the beach, it appears to be a politically motivated murder.

But is it? As a candidate, Guatto had been no threat, despite his efforts to rally local wine-producers incensed by the cheap Spanish wine imports that are jeopardizing their livelihood. A political amateur, Guatto managed to lose not only the vote, but also his campaign manager turned lover, Stephanie McLeod.

The scope of Aliette's investigation widens when it turns out that Stephanie has ties to a Europe-wide anarchist network. Aliette needs Stephanie for her murder case. But French secret service agent Margot Tessier is determined to use the young woman as a disposable pawn in her quest for a much bigger target. Aliette must get to Stephanie first.

About the author

Brooke, John

John Brooke became fascinated by criminality and police work listening to the courtroom stories and observations of his father, a long-serving judge. Although he lives in Montreal, John makes frequent trips to France for both pleasure and research. He earns a living as a freelance writer and translator, has also worked as a film and video editor as well as directed four films on modern dance. Brooke’s first novel, The Voice of Aliette Nouvelle, was published in 1999. His poetry and short stories have also been widely published and in 1998 his story "The Finer Points of Apples" won him the Journey Prize.


Aliette’s instinct was defensive. ‘She came back from her night with you and went swimming. Talk to her boss and to the—’

‘I have spoken with Monsieur Roig. He assumes she came in and got a phone. A work phone. We have her phone. The neighbour saw her go into her house and leave shortly after. Swimming only takes a minute.

… I believe she met a ride and went to plant some bombs.’

‘Would she? …after you spent the night scaring her within an inch of her life?’

‘Why not? She hates me. She told me so. She hates us.’

Aliette looked into Margot’s grey eyes. ‘We are not you, madame. Please.’

‘Don’t let’s split hairs, Inspector. A girl like her sees the world in black and white.’

‘Then why did you let her go?’

‘I obviously should have kept her.’ She shrugged, bemused. ‘For the same reason as you, I’d imagine. To catch a bigger fish. Who hates us even more than she does.’

‘She wants nothing more to do with him.’


‘My fish is not your fish, Margot.’Aliette Nouvelle hated the fact that she shared such a basic mistake with the likes of Margot Tessier. ‘What do you want to talk about?’

‘First I have something you need to hear.’

Margot Tessier pulled a small recorder from her purse and pressed Play. A computer voice: You have reached the voice mail of …a female voice added: Stephanie. The computer voice: Please leave a message. A male said, Hey, Steph. Where are you, darlin’? I hope they haven’t grabbed you already. If they have, we have complete faith in your ability to withstand torture for the greater good. If not, I recommend lying low till we can connect. I can see a wonderful future awaiting the two of us, Steph. Talk to you soon. Love ya, and you know it. Ta.

The inspector blinked. The agent nodded. The tape continued:

They listened to a universally familiar ring tone: All you need is love…la la la la la…All you need is – Then, connecting, the male voice: Steph! I was just—The female voice cut him off: I love you but can’t there be more than this? There has to be…I’ll be in touch.

You could hear the call being cut. Margot stopped the machine. ‘Both calls were recorded a few hours after yesterday’s events. The voices are those of this Prince person and Stephanie McLeod.’ Before Aliette could speak, she added, ‘This can easily be proved.’

But Aliette could not speak. She was feeling like she’d been punched.

…Gesturing to Margot’s recorder: ‘Let me hear it again.’

Margot obliged.

I love you but can’t there be more than this? There has to be…I’ll be in touch.

The inspector said, ‘But he’s teasing her! Listen to him.’

‘It’s how he always sounds.’ Margot Tessier pressed a button, the machine adjusted. They heard a series of messages from Prince telling Stephanie she really was part of the group. The twangy accent, whiny, cajoling tone – all consistent. The name Ulrike kept popping up.

Aliette asked, ‘Who is this Ulrike?’

‘Did she not tell you about his Ulrike Meinhof fantasy?’


‘She’s his Ulrike.’

Aliette stared at the recorder. ‘No. She’s not stupid. Something’s not right here.’

‘Love makes people stupid,’ Margot noted. ‘We both know this.’ Margot Tessier was trying hard to be a colleague and not a bitch. More than that: Trying hard to make it just us girls.

Aliette Nouvelle resisted.

Margot seemed perplexed by her reluctance. To fill the silence, she said, ‘So many of my clients are so basic. Paris sends me all this research. So many studies being done. We deal with the idealists, the politically angry. That derives from high-end notions. Patriotism, love of humankind, fanatical faith, what have you… I suppose it’s fascinating for the ones who draw up these abstract models. I suppose it helps me do I what I need to do. But I mean basic in the sense of predictable responses to your garden-variety spiritual crises brought on by disillusion. I’d never tell my bosses, but I find far more workable profiles in my how-to self-help bestsellers than in any of the academic stuff. It’s a bit sad when you think about it.’

‘How to make a bomb?’ Aliette got that research too. ‘You’re seeing her wrong.’


Clashing Women in Authority

Chief Inspector Aliette Nouvelle as lead police officer and Margot Tessier as lead agent for the DST were pivotal characters in Walls of a Mind by John Brooke. My last post was a review of the book. >>

— Bill Selnes Mysteries and More from Saskatchewan

Publishing popular genre fiction, like mysteries, when you only have a population of thirty million, (compared to the U.S's 300 million), is a more "perilous trade" than Roy MacSkimming meant by the title of his 2003 history of CanLit– at… >>

— John Moore SubTerrain

Walls of a Mind by John Brooke – Chief Inspector Aliette Nouvelle has been transferred from the Alsace region to the Midi of Southwestern France after a bad ending to a relationship.

Walls of a Mind is the 5th book in… >>

— Bill Selnes Mysteries and More from Saskatchewan

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