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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bruno Chief of Police. Martin Walker. Quercus. (2009)

A wonderfully evocative and engaging crime story set in the Dordogne region of France.In a small village in rural France an elderly Algerian immigrant is murdered in a brutal fashion. Details of the crime strongly suggest a race crime and Bruno, the Chief of Police for the village of St Denis finds that the murder is arousing a lot of attention and tension. As the various elements of the criminal justice process come into play Bruno struggles to remain part of the investigation and to protect his peaceful way of life. The reveals are distributed at a leisurely pace and conclusion is wholly satisfying.
At first this story is very like a cosy Sunday night television feature featuring murder in some idyllic village populated by a more than usually interesting cast. Martin Walker invests a considerable amount of time carefully establishing the scene, the structure and life of a small village in France and the people who live there. He skillfully brings the cast to life and quietly shows the tensions that exist in the village and how the murder and the racial overtones bring these tensions to the surface. He also shows how national forces can seize an opportunity to use such a murder to push their own agendas regardless of the impact on the locality. What is remarkable is how the conclusion reveals just how high the stakes really are and it takes its force from the understanding that Martin Walker has carefully built up beforehand. The story logic does not have to be contorted to achieve a truly dramatic conclusion, it arises naturally and logically from the context.
In a very understated way Martin Walker has written a very serious book, clothed it in the warm sunshine of rural France and a truly memorable cast. This book is as great a pleasure as the mouthwatering food that is consumed with such relish by its cast.

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