Bruno, Chief of Police
A Novel of the French Countryside
By Martin Walker
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780307270177, 288pp.)
Publication Date: March 24, 2009
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The first installment in a wonderful new series that follows the exploits of Benoît Courrèges, a policeman in a small French village where the rituals of the café still rule. Bruno—as he is affectionately nicknamed—may be the town’s only municipal policeman, but in the hearts and minds of its denizens, he is chief of police.
Bruno is a former soldier who has embraced the pleasures and slow rhythms of country life—living in his restored shepherd’s cottage; patronizing the weekly market; sparring with, and basically ignoring, the European Union bureaucrats from Brussels. 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 everything and galvanizes Bruno’s attention: the man was found with a swastika carved into his chest.
Because of the case’s potential political ramifications, a young policewoman is sent from Paris to aid Bruno with his investigation. The two immediately suspect militants from the anti-immigrant National Front, but when a visiting scholar helps to untangle the dead man’s past, Bruno’s suspicions turn toward a more complex motive. His investigation draws him into one of the darkest chapters of French history—World War II, a time of terror and betrayal that set brother against brother. Bruno soon discovers that even his seemingly perfect corner of la belle France is not exempt from that period’s sinister legacy.
Bruno, Chief of Police is deftly dark, mesmerizing, and totally engaging.
Martin Walker is the senior director of the Global Business Policy Council and editor emeritus and international affairs columnist at United Press International. Formerly Moscow and U.S. bureau chief for Britain’s The Guardian, he is also a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. His books include The Cold War: A History, a New York Times Notable Book and short-listed for the Whitbread Book of the Year Prize, and The Caves of Périgord, a novel. He has written for The New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Times Literary Supplement. He lives in Washington, D.C., and the southwest of France.