Bruno, Chief of Police
A Novel of the French Countryside
By Martin Walker
Knopf, Hardcover, 9780307270177, 288pp.
Publication Date: March 24, 2009
List Price: $24.95*
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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.
"Martin Walker has not only written an engrossing roman policier, but he has written a book that goes to the very heart of what France–rural, small-town France–is like. It's a thriller, and full of surprises, but it will also appeal to anybody who loves France. Bruno, Chief of Police, is a wonderful creation.
-Michael Korda, author of Charmed Lives
“Hugely enjoyable and absolutely gripping. Martin Walker has got off to a flying start in what promises to be a great series. Bruno will be the Maigret of the Dordogne.”
-Antony Beevor, author of Paris After the Liberation 1944-1949
“A splendid combination of a complex crime with tangled wartime origins that takes place in a lovingly described French village, and a totally original and sympathetic hero. Absolutely first rate. There must be more to come about Bruno!”
-William Pfaff, author of Barbarian Sentiments: America in the New Century
“Martin Walker has found in Bruno a man rooted in the terroir of Perigord, who brings that quirky, lovable part of France alive. This novel is as tasty as a slice of Bruno’s local foie gras, topped with a glass of his homemade vin de noix.”
-David Ignatius, author of Body of Lies
“Martin Walker’s gentle, entrancing new French crime novel has been an enormous hit across Europe and it is easy to see why. But beneath its obvious professionalism and pleasures, as with its subtly original hero, there are far more hidden strengths and valuable messages than at first meet the eye . . . In an era when most Americans are ignorant of France in its true richness, generosity of spirit, and quality of life, Mr. Walker and his Bruno offer an enchanting introduction into this very real world. The American reading public should flock to join them.”
-Martin Sieff, The Washington Times
“This wonderfully crafted novel is as satisfying as a French pastry but with none of the guilt or calories.”
-Tucson Citizen’s Journal
“[A] timely whodunit . . . Without sacrificing a soupçon of the novel’s smalltown charm or its characters’ endearing quirkiness, Walker deftly drives his plot toward a dark place where old sins breed fresh heartbreak.”
“A nice literary pairing with the slow-food movement . . . [It is] lovely . . . to linger at the table.”
“Highly enjoyable . . . Martin Walker plots with the same finesse with which Bruno can whip up a truffle omelette, and both have a clear appreciation for a life tied to the land.”
-The Christian Science Monitor
“A roman policier . . . that the celebrated Simenon, creator of Inspector Jules Maigret, would have been proud to claim . . . Readers [will] effortlessly enter French consciousness through [this] perspicacious book.”
-Ben Martin, Baton Rouge Advocate
“A paean to the Dordogne, an exploration of fractious French history, and the debut of the most self-possessed, accomplished, even-tempered, life-savoring Holmesian character ever, Walker’s first Bruno novel proves once and for all that heavyweight journalists can write mystery novels . . . Walker’s love of the place shines through. Readers will look forward to visiting it again with him and the incomparable Bruno.”
-Lynn Harnett, Seacoast Sunday [New Hampshire]
“[Martin] Walker sets a charming table . . . the civilized approach to detection will likely appeal to fans of Roderic Jeffries’s Inspector Alvarez.”