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I recall Martin Walker as a frequent presence on American talking head shows--like The McLaughlin Group--in the '90s and liked him then, though didn't always agree with him. Then he sort of disappeared and I hadn't seen or read much of him for years before his Bruno mysteries started turning up on Thrift Store bookshelves. You can't begrudge a writer trying out a different milieu but the encomiums on the covers, but a lot of them suggested nothing more than cozy mysteries and chat about French food and wine. Not that there can't be good cozies--M.C. Beaton--or that food can't be a theme of a good series--as with Inspector Montalbano--but one does prefer a darker tone to a police procedural. I finally read the first in the series and it's a pleasant surprise.

As with so many first novels, the author has kind of over-stuffed his main character. Benoît Courrèges is a former soldier deployed in the Balkans, now universally known as Bruno in the Dordogne village of Saint-Denis where he polices without a gun, coaches youth rugby, manages the local tennis club and is learning to produce or trade for as much food as he can. There's a lot going on here but what Mr. Walker is apparently shooting for is mostly the immersive lifestyle he's found for himself in moving to the Perigord.

Our first indication that there's more here than just cuteness comes when Bruno helps the townfolk conspire to avoid the bureaucrats who are looking for EU regulation violations on market day. In his own way, he explains the logic of Brexit better than he ever could have in a Guardian column. Then, when Hamid Mustafa al-Bakr, a veteran of the Algerian War who won the Croix de Guerre fighting for France, is brutally murdered, a swastika carved in his chest, we get a forthright exploration of the sort of National Front nativist neo-Nazism that plagues France and the book could almost be a forecast of Trumpism.

What's most impressive is that Mr. Walker manages to strike a balance between these political themes, the unraveling of the mystery and the enchanting lifestyle of the French countryside. Suffice it to say, I have five more from the series stacked up on my bedside.


Grade: (A)


See also:

Martin Walker Links:

    -AUTHOR SITE: Bruno Chief of Police
    -WIKIPEDIA: Martin Walker
    -AUTHOR PAGE: Martin Walker (Macmillan)
    -FELLOW: Martin Walker (World Policy)
    -ARCHIVES: Martin Walker (Muck Rack)
    -ARCHIVES: Martin Walker (The Globalist)
    -ARCHIVES: Martin Walker (The Guardian)
    -ARCHIVES: Martin Walker (Wilson Quarterly)
    -ESSAY: Bruno (Martin Walker, Shots)
    -ESSAY: Martin Walker on the Origin of the Inspector Bruno Series: Finding Inspiration and Mystery in an Ancient French Valley (Martin Walker, June 21, 2016, LitHub)
    -BOOK SITE: Bruno, Chief of Police Series (Penguin/Random House)
    -Bruno Books in Order (Fiction DB)
    -PROFILE: The Delicious World of Bruno, Chief of Police (Eric Asimov, July 24, 2017, NY Times)
I have been especially intrigued by Bruno’s world because the Périgord, where duck fat is a way of life, is a backwater for wine, even if it is just an hour inland from Bordeaux.

The Périgord has been continually occupied for 70,000 years, since Neanderthals hunted in the forests and early modern humans created the masterpieces adorning the caves of Lascaux. Though the region has winemaking traditions that date back centuries, its Bergerac wines are little known in the world beyond. Even so, the fictional denizens of St.-Denis cherish their local wines and foods, which they consume without pretension but with an intuitive understanding that comes from long experience.

I paid a visit to Mr. Walker, 70, in late spring. When he is not in London or Washington, he lives with his wife, Julia Watson, in a small town, Le Bugue, which straddles the Vézère river and serves as a model for the fictional St.-Denis.

The couple cannot sell their eggs at the market in Le Bugue, which will celebrate its 700th anniversary in 2019, because European Union regulations prohibit a rooster from living with the egg-laying chickens. So they have entered the barter economy themselves.

“We’re all in the underground,” Ms. Watson said. “Not fighting the Nazis, just all the silly laws.”

    -ESSAY: New kids on the block: Obama's gang is more rooted in the black establishment than we thought. They will transform the culture in Washington (Martin Walker, December 20, 2008, Prospect)
    -ESSAY: Europe’s Turkish question: Turkey's 1999 earthquake shook up the European landscape. Thawing relations with Greece and a ceasefire with the Kurds have finally opened the way to Turkish entry into the EU. The geopolitical implications are enormous. (Martin Walker, February 20, 2001, Prospect)
    -ESSAY: Letter from Washington DC: Bush V Gore (Martin Walker, November 20, 2000, Prospect)
    -ESSAY: No argument: Seldom has a US presidential election produced so little clash of ideology or even of policy. But the outcome could make a big difference to the rest of the world (Martin Walker, March 20, 2000, Prospect)
    -REVIEW: of STALIN Breaker of Nations By Robert Conquest (Martin Walker, Washington Post)
    -ESSAY: D-Day: The End of Wars?: How much did D-Day contribute to ringing in the end of nation state warfare? (Martin Walker, June 4, 2004, The Globalist)
    -ESSAY: How a Briton became an ambassador for the Dordogne (Martin Walker, 6/17/15, The Telegraph)
    -VIDEO: A Visit with Author Martin Walker in the Perigord (HEC Books, Jun 1, 2020)
    -VIDEO: Martin Walker - Danube Dialogues (Danube Institute, Aug 4, 2020)
    -VIDEO INTERVIEW: Martin Walker discusses THE SHOOTING AT CHATEAU ROCK (Barbara Peters, May 26, 2020, The Poisoned Pen Bookstore)
    -TED TALK: Living With Robots | Martin Walker (TEDxMünchen, Feb 22, 2016)
    -VIDEO: Martin Walker "The Devil's Cave" (Politics and Prose, Jul 17, 2013)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: The President We Deserve (Linda talks with Martin Walker, author of a new book on President Clinton (All Things Considered, 10/11/1996, npr)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: Above the Fold (On the Media, February 4, 2005)
    -PROFILE: From Russia to the Périgord with love: Rarely has a Brit been so well integrated into French society as Martin Walker, author of the Bruno, Chief of Police series. Jessica Knipe visits him at home in Le Bugue to talk Brexit, basset hounds and truffled brie (Jessica Knipe, March 22, 2017, Connexion)
    -INTERVIEW: Author Q&A: Interview with Martin Walker: There's far more brioche than bullets on display in Martin Walker’s latest Bruno, Chief of Police book, The Resistance Man. (Michael Causey, May 2, 2014, Washington Independent Review of Books)
    -INTERVIEW: An Interview with Martin Walker, author of “Bruno, Chief of Police” (Janet Hulstrand - October 13, 2015, France Today)
    -PODCAST: Martin Walker – Bruno Police Chief (Jennys Binge Reading, December 13, 2019)
    -ARTICLE: Veteran reporter quits `Guardian' (David Lister, 02 August 1999, Independent)
    -INTERVIEW: Martin Walker, author of The Devil’s Cave (Bruno, Chief of Police series) (Kristin, July 13, 2013, My Bookish Ways)
    -INTERVIEW: Meike talks to Martin Walker about Bruno, Chief of Police (Book People, JUNE 28, 2018)
    -PROFILE: The Food, Wine and Life Of Bruno, Chief Of Police Saint Denis, France (Nick Passmore, 7/15/17, Forbes)
    -PODCAST: Martin Walker, ex-Guardian Journalist talks "Brexit" (Spectrum)
    -INTERVIEW: Martin walker (Richard Aherne, Paris Insider)
    -VIDEO INTERVIEW: Author Martin Walker, Interview (Publishing Perspectives, Dec 9, 2013)
    -INTERVIEW: Countdown with ... Martin Walker (Interviewed 30 November 2013, Crime Review)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: Martin Walker: “The Patriarch” (Diane Rehm Show, Sep 22 2015, WMUR)
    -AUDIO DEBATE: Should Europe be alarmed by Boris Yeltsin's Russia?: Martin Walker & Anatole Lieven (BBC, 5/25/99)
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: Europe, You're Down (On the Media, November 5, 2004)
    -ARTICLE: The bumpy road ahead according to Martin Walker (MARY COOK, 2/10/17, Boca Beacon)
    -ESSAY: In the Kitchen with Bruno (JANE SIMON AMMESON, JUNE 12, 2019)
    -VIDEO ARCHIVES: "martin walker" (You Tube)
    -ARCHIVES: Martin Walker (Prospect)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVE: Martin Walker (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW ARCHIVES: Martin Walker (Kirkus)
    -VIDEO ARCHIVES: Martin Walker (C-SPAN)
    -REVIEW: of Bruno (Peter Flom, Medium)
    -REVIEW: of Bruno (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Bruno (Maxine Clarke, EuroCrime)
    -REVIEW: of Bruno (Donna Chavez, Book Browse)
    -REVIEW: of Bruno (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Bruno (Linda Harnett, Mostly Fiction)
    -REVIEW: of Bruno (Kate O'Mara, Readings)
    -REVIEW: of Bruno (Sharon Wheeler, Reviewing the Evidence)
    -REVIEW: of Bruno (Scott D. Parker, Do Some Damage)
    -REVIEW: of Bruno (Dining with Donald)
    -REVIEW: of Bruno (Murder by Type)
    -REVIEW: of Bruno (Sarah Hunter, The Skinny)
    -REVIEW: of Bruno (Laura Wilson, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: of The Dark Vineyard by Martin Walker (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Dark Vineyard (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Black Diamond by Martin Walker (Darrell Delamaide, Washington Independent Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Black Diamond (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Black Diamond (Blogcritics)
    -REVIEW: of Black Diamond (DOUGLASS K. DANIEL, Associated Press)
    -REVIEW: of Black Diamond (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of The Crowded Grave by Martin Walker (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Crowded Grave (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of The Devil's Cave by Martin Walker (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Devil's Cave (John Wilwol, Washingtonian)
    -REVIEW: of Devil's Cave (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of The Resistance Man by Martin Walker (Ellen Roehl, Washington Independent Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Resistance Man (Marina Sofia, Crime fiction Lover)
    -REVIEW: of Resistance Man (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Resistance Man (Sharon Wheeler, Crime Review)
    -REVIEW: of Resistance Man (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of The Children Return by Martin Walker (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of The Children Return (Sue Magee, Book Bag)
    -REVIEW: of Children Return (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Children of War (Sharon Wheeler, Crime Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Patriarch by Martin Walker (Michael Causey, Washington Independent Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Patriarch (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Patriarch (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of The Dying Season by Martin Walker (Sharon Wheeler, Crime Review)
    -REVIEW: of Fatal Pursuit by Martin Walker (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Fatal Pursuit (L Ruby Hannigan, Portland book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Fatal Pursuit (Sharon Wheeler, Crime Review)
    -REVIEW: of Fatal Pursuit (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of The Templars' Last Secret by Martin Walker (Marilyn Stasion, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Templars' Last Secret (Robert Croan, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
    -REVIEW: of Templars' Last Secret (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Templars' Last Secret (Susan Miller, SF Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Templars' Last Secret (Sharon Wheeler, Crime Review)
    -REVIEW: of Templars' Last Secret (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of A Taste for Vengeance by Martin Walker (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Taste for Vengeance (Dining with Donald)
    -REVIEW: of Taste for Vengeance (Sharon Wheeler, Crime Review)
    -REVIEW: of Taste for Vengeance (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Body in the Castle Wall by Martin Walker (Marilyn Stasion, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Body in the Castle Wall (Connie Fletcher, Book List)
    -REVIEW: of Body in the Castle Wall (Toni V. Sweeney, NY Journal of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Body in the Castle Wall (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Body in the Castle Wall (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Body in the Castle Wall (Sue Magee, Book Bag)
    -REVIEW: of Body in the Castle Wall (Mae's Food Blog)
    -REVIEW: of Body in the Castle Wall (Sharon Wheeler, Crime Review)
    -REVIEW: of Body in the Castle Wall (John Ammeson, Times)
    -REVIEW: of The Shooting at Chateau Rock by Martin Walker (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Shooting at Chateau Rock (Publishers Weekly)
    -REVIEW: of Shooting at Chateau Rock (Dining with Donald)
    -REVIEW: of Shooting at Chateau Rock (Sharon Wheeler, Crime Review)
    -REVIEW: of Shooting at Chateau Rock (Robin Agnew, Mystery Scene)
    -REVIEW: of The Waking Giant: Gorbachev's Russia by Martin Walker    -REVIEW: of Waking Giant (Stephen White, Third World Quarterly)
    -REVIEW: of The Caves of Perigord by Martin Walker (Kirkus)
    -REVIEW: of Caves of Perigord (JOHN R. VALLELY, Historical Novel Society)
    -REVIEW: of Caves of Perigord (Becky Ohlsen, Bookreporter)
    -REVIEW: of The Cold War: A History by Martin Walker (Kirkus)

Book-related and General Links:
Series Order:
Bruno, Chief of Police / Death in the Dordogne (2007)

The Dark Vineyard (2009)

Black Diamond (2010)

The Crowded Grave (2011)

The Devil's Cave (2012)

Bruno and the Carol Singers (2012)

The Resistance Man (2013)

The Children Return (2014)

A Market Tale (2014)

The Patriarch (2015)

Fatal Pursuit (2016)

The Templars' Last Secret (2017)

A Taste for Vengeance (2018)

The Chocolate War (2018)

The Body in the Castle Well (2019)

A Birthday Lunch (2019)

Oystercatcher (2020)

The Shooting at Chateau Rock (2020)