The first chapter is set in Provence in August 1944 – shortly after the French and American troops had landed in the south of France – 15th August 1944 – and the Nazi occupiers and their fascist collaborators knew they were defeated. A noble family, in their chateau on their vineyard in Provence, are protecting, hiding a young Jewish boy – David. The family, Comte, wife, children, domestic staff are murdered by a member of Vichy’s fascist militia – Milice. David is wounded but survives. He is subsequently sheltered in a Benedictine Monastery until the end of the war and for some time after. The treasures of the chateau, including an Old Master, are stolen.
He subsequently migrates to Australia. Many decades later he advises his employer, friend that he must return to Provence because of two disturbing incidents – a murder and possible desecration of a Jewish cemetery – where he is killed. An Australian investigative journalist, Tony Britt, is commissioned to go to France, to Provence to investigate the circumstances of David’ death. Tony goes to Paris to research the history of the Vichy government – 1940-1944 – and the persecution of French Jews during the Nazi occupation. He is joined by his companion Jo and they travel to Provence, to Carpentras where they consult with the Justice Department, the Benedictine monastery, the historic synagogue, an art historian. The beauty of Provence and the legendary love of Petrarch (1304-1374) for Laura are recurring themes throughout their time in Provence.