August 2013

 

French Kisses to Bruno

My name is Anna Campbell and I’m a Martin Walker mystery addict!

There, I’ve admitted it!

MFTAug13-4Do you know these books? I hadn’t heard of them until my friend Annie West brought the first one, Bruno, Chief of Police, back from a holiday she had in the Perigord in south-western France. Since then I’ve devoured (you’ll notice lots of eating imagery in this post for a very good reason!) the first four and I’m madly waiting on the fifth.

If you’ve been a regular reader of this column or my reviews over at the Romance Dish on the 24th of every month, you’ll know that I’ve recently been on a mystery series reading jag. Especially mysteries with a strong romantic subplot.

These Bruno books belong more in the mystery camp than the mystery/romance camp, but there’s enough romantic intrigue along with all other sorts of intrigue to keep a diehard romance reader glued to the page.

Englishman Martin Walker is a distinguished journalist and foreign correspondent who lives part of the year in the beautiful Dordogne area of France. I’ve been lucky enough to visit this part of the world and it’s like dream France. Turreted chateaux, vineyards, orchards of blossoming fruit trees, sparkling rivers winding through ancient stone villages. Mysterious forests where Sleeping Beauty is still snoozing. I’m sure you’ve got a picture in your mind and if you have, it’s pretty close to true.

This part of France is also the home of classic French cuisine. Famous delicacies like truffles and foie-gras. Because the area’s still quite rural, many old traditions survive. I can still remember eating roast goose there for the first time in my life and thinking I’d died and gone to heaven (the goose had definitely died and gone to heaven, but he went in a good cause!).

MFTAug13-1The central character is an unconventional policeman called Benoit ‘Bruno’ Courreges who has retreated to the beautiful village of St. Denis after a traumatic posting as a peacekeeper in the Balkans. One of the many pleasures of these books is Bruno’s character. He’s a man who prefers friendly negotiation to confrontation and it’s such fun watching his subtle good nature win out over more bombastic attempts to exert authority. He’s also very clever and worldly for a village copper. There are some amusing scenes where big city law enforcers come to St. Denis determined to patronize a man who is their superior in most ways, not least local knowledge.

Book 1 of the series, BRUNO, CHIEF OF POLICE, introduces the wonderful, rich world of these books with their charming mixture of history and modernity. An old man is brutally murdered and the tentacles of France’s World War II past reach forward to threaten the future.

MFTAug13-3Book 2, THE DARK VINEYARD, concerns criminal activity in the local wine industry. Again, dark deeds in St Denis’s past percolate beneath the surface to explode in violence and tragedy.

Book 3, BLACK DIAMOND, is about the local obsession with truffles – you can see what I mean about food playing such a huge role in these books, can’t you? An influx of inferior Chinese truffles leads to revelations about illegal immigration and murder.

Book 4, THE CROWDED GRAVE, sees Bruno enlisted to assist in an anti-terrorist conference taking place in a local chateau. This one’s probably the most suspenseful of the series so far!

MFTAug13-2As you can probably tell, each of these books follows the pattern of a sin in Eden. St. Denis left to its own devices is pretty much heaven on earth – especially if you like to eat and drink well. I promise you’ll be perpetually hungry as you read the loving descriptions of meals! When a transgression destroys the peace of this idyllic place, Bruno works like a wise and avenging angel to return St. Denis to its pure state.

I hope I’ve piqued your interest in these wonderful books. I could go on and on about how enjoyable they are. Reading a Martin Walker book is like submerging yourself in this glorious, complex world packed with rich textures and flavors. Once you discover St. Denis, you won’t want to leave!