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by Martin Walker
Quercus, April 2008
288 pages
12.99 GBP
ISBN: 1847245072

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Captain Bruno Courrèges is chief of police in a small southwestern French town. He never wears his gun, spends an inordinate amount of time either eating or thinking about food, and doesn't do much in the way of arresting people. All the high-powered cops he comes into contact with envy him his idyllic lifestyle.

And as the book opens, he's preoccupied with trying to keep the Euro bureaucrats at bay. The diktats from Brussels on food hygiene threaten that very French institution, the rural market. But Bruno and his beloved villagers are nothing if not intrepid, and stay one step ahead of the inspectors.

I must admit that I circled Martin Walker's crime fiction debut, BRUNO, CHIEF OF POLICE, with a certain amount of trepidation, fearing that it was going to be an Englishman's rosy-eyed view of rural France.

Maybe it is that to some extent, but it's also a great deal more, and the first in what deserves to be a long-running series. For beneath Walker's obvious affection for France is a clear-eyed perspective on how its wartime history informs the present, and how even remote rural areas aren't exempt from racial unrest.

BRUNO, CHIEF OF POLICE has an unmistakable spine of steel running through it. For when our hero finally has a serious crime – the murder of an elderly Arab immigrant – to investigate, it harks back to wartime tensions which are still played out today, as well as keeping the ever-present racial unrest in France in the spotlight.

Walker, who's a top UK journalist, is a natural at writing fiction, if this book is anything to go by. He presents us with a raft of fully-formed, totally believable characters in this vivid setting. Bruno himself is a wonderful creation – a good and honest man with surprisingly dark shadows in his seemingly perfect life.

BRUNO, CHIEF OF POLICE is an absolute delight. It's quirky, sure, but it's also charming, witty and intelligent, and it's not often you can say that about crime fiction.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, June 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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