Bruno is another of my favourite detectives. St Denis, in the Dardogne, is a French kind of Midsomer, and St Denis happens to be the domain of Bruno, Chief of Police, a fit young police chief who, between hunting, raising hens, making omelettes and training the local rugby team, somehow finds time to solve crimes and have a complicated love life.
It must be the French air.
An arson attack on an unsanctioned experimental GMO farm generates an investigation by a Brigadier as it appears there was government involvement in the farm. Meanwhile American investors are planning to buy half the valley to mass produce cheap wine. Things get complicated when the chief arson suspect is found dead and Bruno finds himself torn between two lovers, feeling like a fool, as Shakespeare once said.
I recently criticised a novel which was set in London, but if you didn’t know London, you’d be no better off after reading the book. It might as well have been Hull or Omsk.
Here the setting is so well realised that I ache to be there. It is a separate character in the novel. I want to be invited to Bruno’s dinner where one eats the birds that Bruno shot himself, wiping the plate with fresh bread to make way for the next course and drinking a fantastic variety of local wines.
I don’t care if I’m in line for murder. I am seduced by the writing and the characters and the place.
More Bruno… and more wine please.
I have to confess that I was slowly seduced by this book, which made me want to run away to France, buy an isolated cottage, make my own sausages and grow carrots.
Bruno is an ex-soldier working as a policeman in the French town of St Denis. Up until now his main problems have been Planning violations, keeping the rugby team in order and co-ordinating the townspeople’s defences against the bureaucratic nonsense of the EU food inspectors. However, he has a real crime on his hands when an elderly arab is murdered and left with a swastika carved into his chest.
Walker paints an idyllic picture of this part of France, where every meal appears to be a gourmet’s dream, accompanied by a bewildering selection of alcohol. This is contrasted by the elements of French Society that are veering toward the Right, despite their experience of such things in World War II.
Do not think though that this is a depressing tale of political extremism, since it is not. It is very much character driven, with a largeish cast of very individual characters from various social and ethnic backgrounds, but who are all decidedly and proudly French (apart from two English women, but even they have gone partly native and become part of the scenery).
It’s a thoroughly enjoyable read, which taught me a great deal about France, the French and French history. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series now.
Have lots of food to hand though, as it will make you hungry.