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. Bruno soon discovers that even his seemingly perfect corner of la belle France is not exempt from that period's sinister legacy.
©2008 Walker and Watson Ltd.; (P)2009 Recorded Books, LLC
Martin Walker mentions, in the course of this novel, that there are little memorials to the 20th-century war dead all over France, evoking memories of a plaque my husband spotted on the outer wall of an elementary school in a quiet side street in Paris when we were visiting this past May. It listed three or four teachers and about fifteen students of the school, all Jewish, who perished, presumably in concentration camps, around 1942. It was deeply disturbing and saddening to imagine that in one of the world's major centers of civilized thought and culture the school was unable, or even unwilling, to keep its pupils safe.
The crimes of the Vichy government loom large in this mystery, as does the Franco-Algerian War and its veterans. I love mysteries that not only take me to distant places but give me an unexpected window into a specific time in history that I would be unlikely to otherwise encounter, and this one does that splendidly, thanks, in part, to its narrator. I also tend to note how appropriate the accents of various characters are, but hearing the title character voiced with an Oxonian inflection didn't really bother me that much, as he himself is a highly literate man. The food, wine, and landscape of the novel are enchanting, and I look forward to meeting many of the characters again in future installments of the series.
Mystery reader (especially series) and Austen lover
Bruno, "Chief of Police, " is the only police officer in his small village, located in a sleepy valley of France. A former soldier who was wounded in Kosovo, he loves the quiet little village which has adopted him as one of its own. He teaches the young children to play tennis and Rugby, and sometimes coaches the village Rugby team. He knows almost everyone of the locals, and they know and trust him. Rather like the village constable in a classic British mystery.
But an elderly Algerian Frenchman resident is murdered and various clues indicate that his death is somehow connected to WW II, Vichy France, Nazism, and the Franco - Algerian troops from that time period. Officers from the National Police arrive in the village to investigate the crime, and Bruno is put in the position of assisting the investigation while trying not to release the secrets of the villagers about activities which are not, strictly speaking, legal.
Other reviewers have compared this book to some of the stories of Alexander McCall Smith. There is a calmness and gentleness to the telling of Bruno's story that is reminiscent of Smith's tales. However, I find Walker's writing, characters and plotting the more interesting and engaging of the two. The plot is interesting enough to keep you engaged, the characters are well fleshed out and likeable, and the writing style takes you along gently. Narrator Robert Ian MacKenzie brings story and characters beautifully to life.
All in all, a most pleasant experience. I expect to read more from this series.
Have re-discovered "quality time." Evenings listening to good books have replaced mindless tv watching. What a difference!
I haven't read the print version, but I imagine so. The narration was excellent.
I enjoyed reading a mystery that was longer on human interest, interactions and history than on violence. It has its' shocking places, but I like reading about a character that uses patience, humor, and his sense of truth rather than one who is out committing more violence him(her)self in the name of finding criminals. This book had good human appeal and the story was filled with interesting information about the area of Perigord, in France.
Actually, several of the scenes that were side issues to the mystery, but dealt with the charm and interest of the people and the area. I'd enjoy re-reading those parts.
No extreme reaction, but it held my interest, and moved back and forth between character exchanges and fact-finding scenes.
I would recommend it to people who don't like a lot of violent action, but enjoy a good mystery that is not "fluff."
Retired "Okie" librarian & happy to have found Audible for good stories & staying in touch with new authors & books.
What a pleasure! A well written & enjoyable mystery without explicit sex or crime scene descriptions. A little romance is welcome though along with French history, contemporary social lessons, & justice. The love of French food & culture is evident & sure threads woven into the story. I learned about an aspect of French WWII history unknown to me. Every country has dark times & knowing of them may keep everyone humble.
A little more lively reading would be nice.
This is similar to the other Bruno books I have read or listened to.
While the book is a little slow, it is still a nice listen. A definite listen if you are going to the French countryside for vacation.
I'd put it in among the top 25% of the books I've listened to.
Without seeming frenetic, a lot goes on in this story, and even the minor characters are well defined. And Bruno is a rarity among men; he's content with his life, even as he is open to new experiences.
His pacing, as always, is very measured, which makes it easy to visualize each scene.
I wouldn't say my reaction was extreme. But I was very happy to find an affable character to follow through a series of books, and to discover another author whose narrative style fits like a comfortable glove.
If I didn't know who the author was, I'd have sworn this must have been written by Alexander McCall Smith. It's uncanny how similar Walker and McCall Smith are in style, tone, pacing, character development and philosophy.
Within this book some serious subjects are confronted: racism, xenophobia, murder, rape, wartime atrocities, drugs, love, friendship, loyalty, and morality, yet they are considered and discussed without being preachy.
In the middle of the pack, would be upper middle if Robert Ian MacKenzie hadn't read the character as though Bruno were Carson the butler of Downton Abbey. Martin Walker the author might be an Oxford-educated British ex-pat, but his/my hero Bruno Courreges the chief of police is supposed to be French! Bruno just might have more common sense in his little finger than 99% of the rest of the world put together, but Bruno was an orphan who got his education in the army, not at Harrow or Oxford.
Bruno, of course.
MacKenzie was perfect in his reading of Mark Helprin's Freddie and Fredricka, which unfortunately does NOT work for Bruno, the French village chief of police.
As you probably know by now I had an extreme reaction to MacKenzie's reading of the book. It was phenomenally annoying. The book itself is an excellent variation of the British "cozy" murder mystery, and in the right voice would have been just what I was looking for. I will read the remainder of the series and keep my ear out better uses of MacKenzie's prodigious talent.
Mysteries, classics, non-fiction, time travel, Bounty hunters, grim reapers... anything but vampires, please!
I adore books that transport you to another place and let you eat, sleep, and look around while keeping you entertained with a good story.
It was interesting to learn a little more about French immegration and political history. I had google a few of the mentioned skirmishes to get a feel for the implied import.
Believable. Just haughty enough.
A little egotistical, but then the best French Detectives are, now, aren't they?
Bought the next two. . . He's doing a pretty good job of not being formulaic, but this first is the most enthralling.
Words form the heart, sound forms the soul, intrigue forms the mind.
Yummy, Intriguing, Current
The MC Beaton books, small village, smart cop, with a love life that is unresolved. I like Bruno better though, he is an incredible cook and seems to have a better outlook on life.
Good characterizations and seemed to capture what the author was intending.
Not that I can remember.
The writing is good and keeps you listening, wonderful characters, great descriptions and a look at current problems in France that I knew nothing about.
I thought the idea of this book was great. I learned a lot about Algerians who came to France just before and during WWII and their various roles during the war. However, I thought that there was too much extraneous, superficial detail that lent nothing to the mystery. I did not need to know each volley of a tennis match among unnecessary characters. The food of the region was interesting, but I didn't need to listen to each detail of its preparation. By the time the murder was solved, I felt too LITTLE was said about the solution and I was not satisfied with the resolution. I wouldn't read (or listen) to another book in this series.
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