Police Chief Bruno Investigations-Martin Walker

The police chief of a small town in France’s Perigord is the unlikely – and marvelously human – lead character in eight novels by Martin Walker,a distinguished foreign correspondent and thinker.

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Martin Walker’s stories of a fictional village in France’s Perigord - hard by the Lascaux caves, with their astonishing wall paintings from 17,000-odd years ago - cover a lot of ground.  Its sole policeman, one Bruno Courreges, has to date dealt with jihadists, Asian gang culture, art and antique forgers, war heroes gone bad, and Shoah survivors who were sheltered in the town.

 

The latest of Bruno’s adventures ,FATAL PURSUIT, is centered on a far more obscure subculture -  those who seek out, restore, and sell automotive rareties.  In this case, one of the rarest: a Bugatti 57SC Atlantic.  Four 57SC’s were made in the late thirties.  Two are in American collections.  In the last market transaction involving a 57SC, one was acquired a few years ago for an unpublished price, generally and reliably thought to be near $40 million.

One of the Atlantics disappeared during World War II.   It was Bugatti’s personal car, and may have been sent by him from Alsace to Bordeaux to keep it out of the hands of the advancing Germans.  Or not.  It simply disappeared, and that genuine mystery is the heart of Bruno’s latest puzzler.

RL 1938 Bugatti 57SC Atlantic 34 2 

Walker makes this sketchy story wonderfully contemporary.  Antique and classic car enthusiasts are notoriously picky about details: engine numbers, chassis numbers, rebuilt cars.  As a car nut myself, I can assure a reader the book is impeccable in every such detail.

 

For normal readers, it evokes the very real world of grasping profiteers willing to go to any lengths to find “stuff” - from artwork to antique cars - to appeal to wealthy collectors.  Or bling-seekers.   And none too picky about how they satisfy the dreams of others. 

 

Equipped as usual with his faithful dog, the support of his community, and a very accomplished woman who turns up looking for love, Bruno is led into this thicket by the murder of an old researcher who’s been following leads to the lost Bugatti Atlantic.   He is successful but fatally naive: his clumsy attempt to squeeze a payoff out of information he’s found results in his death.

Not to worry, this tidbit does not give away the real mystery.  To learn that, one passes by way of sprightly dialogue - written the way real people speak - and mouthwatering accounts of marvelous meals.   Perigord meals: truffles fresh from the ground, foie gras from geese raised nearby, and countless bottles of delightful wine and eaux de vie.  While there’s vicarious pleasure in keeping an eye on Bruno’s love life, and the (numerous) lovely, imaginative and skillful women who populate it.

 

The police chief of a small town in France’s Perigord is the unlikely – and marvelously human – lead character in eight novels by Martin Walker,a distinguished foreign correspondent and thinker.

They’re beautifully written, a pleasure to read. Bruno Courreges’ world, though in one of the oldest inhabited places on earth, is of today. Politics, Islamic terrorists, Asian gangs, the violent repercussions of France’s trauma during the Second World War years of surrender and resistance are part of it.   


It’s also a world of fine food, especially Perigord’s famous truffles, and the fine wine of nearby vineyards. And tales – numerous tales – of Bruno’s colorful love life. 

For anyone who knows or wishes to know France, Walker subtly and impeccably shows the people to be far different from the images English-speakers often have of seducers, double-dealers, and so on. These are real people, and there is more to be learned about their complex history here than in countless “serious” histories I’ve labored through attempting to understand it. Walker makes the learning fun.

Perigord is one of the few places on earth where humans have – demonstrably – lived for at least 35,000 years. Where the Lascaux caves were painted with wild animals, birds, and people around 17,000 years ago. Which the English tried desperately to conquer numerous times during the 14th/15th century Hundred Years’ War.  Which was the scene of epic battles in the ‘40s between the French resistance and the Nazi occupiers.

Walker thrives in this unique world. Or his characters do, and part of his genius is the ability to draw us into their lives. It may come as a surprise that few foreign correspondents have succeeded at writing good novels. Though many have tried, among them some of the best. With his own magic of conception, imagination, and felicitous writing, Walker’s become an extraordinarily skillful exception.

–Richard Aherne

51nPORevvOLWhen Bruno is invited to the lavish birthday celebration of World War II flying ace and national icon Marco “the Patriarch” Desaix, it’s the fulfillment of a boyhood dream. But when the party ends in the death of Gilbert, Marco’s longtime friend, it’s another day on the job for the chef de police. All signs point to a tragic accident, but Bruno isn’t so sure. There is more to the Desaix family’s lives and loyalties than meets the eye. There is Victor, the Patriarch’s son, Gilbert’s old comrade-in-arms and sometime rival; Victor’s seductive wife, Madeleine, whose roving eye intrigues Bruno even more than her fierce political ambitions; Yevgeny, another son, an artist whose paintings seem to hold keys to the past; and the Patriarch himself, whose postwar Soviet ties may have intersected all too closely with Gilbert’s career in Cold War intelligence.

Bruno is diverted by a dangerous conflict between a local animal rights activist and outraged huntersas well as meals to cook, wine to share, and an ever more complicated romantic situation. But as his entanglement with the Desaix family grows and his suspicions heighten, Bruno’s inquiries into Gilbert’s life become a deadly threat to his own.

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bdAs the only policeman in St Denis, Bruno Courreges is responsible for everything from crowd control to charity collections. So investigating rumors about a truffle scam in the local market while trying to find out who has attacked a Vietnamese family’s stall is more or less business as usual. Dedicated as he is to his job, Courreges is also preoccupied with the local mayoral elections, training the town’s rugby team and hunting with his friends.

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dark vineyard

In this riveting sequel to Martin Walker’s internationally acclaimed novel Bruno, Chief of Police, some of France’s great pleasures—wine, passion and intrigue—converge in a dark chain of events that threaten the peaceful village of Saint-Denis.

Benoît (Bruno) Courrèges—devoted friend, cuisinier extraordinaire and the town’s only municipal policeman—rushes to the scene when a research station for genetically modified crops is burned down outside Saint-Denis. Bruno immediately suspects a group of fervent environmentalists who live nearby, but the fire is only the first in a string of mysteries centering on the region’s fertile soil.

Then a bevy of winemakers descends on Saint-Denis, competing for its land and spurring resentment among the villagers. Romances blossom. Hearts are broken. Some of the sensual pleasures of the town—a dinner of a truffle omelette and grilled bécasses, a community grape-crushing—provide an opportunity for both warm friendship and bitter hostilities to form. The town’s rivals—Max, an environmentalist who hopes to make organic wine; Jacqueline, a flirtatious, newly arrived Québécoise; and Fernando, the heir to an American wine fortune—act increasingly erratically. Events grow ever darker, culminating in two suspicious deaths, and Bruno finds that the problems of the present are never far from those of the past.

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brunoMeet Benoît Courrèges, aka Bruno, the police chief in a small village in the Dordogne. As adept with a frying pan as he once was a rifle he is warmly accepted into the community, more as a friend than a law enforcement officer

A veteran of the nightmare in the former Yugoslavia he  has embraced the pleasures and slow rhythms of country life. He has a gun but never wears it; he has the power to arrest but never uses it.  But then the murder of an elderly North African who fought in the French army changes all that.  Now Bruno must balance his beloved routines-living in his restored shepherd’s cottage, shopping at the local market, drinking wine, strolling the countryside-with a politically delicate investigation.
 

And of course in rural France there is always a  connection to WWII and Nazis.

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