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Bruno, Chief of Police

September 15, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

I explained two weekends ago how I was led to download Lee Child’s third Jack Reacher novel, Tripwire, on the eve of our New York-Nantucket trip, so I would be prepared with a thriller on the Kindle when we arrived in Nantucket. As I further explained, I couldn’t wait that long. I began reading it the moment we took our seats on the Seattle-JFK flight, finishing it a week ago this morning. The other book I planned to read on the trip was 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created, which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. I was already some ways into it, and with Tripwire finished, I picked up reading where I had left off.

However, by the end of the day, I decided I wanted to read another thriller or mystery instead. Just the previous Sunday, in her weekly NYT roundup of mystery novels, Marilyn Stasio had mentioned several of possible interest. She led off with George Pelecanos’s newest. There was a time when I would leap at his new books, but no longer. He wore me down with his emphasis on father-son tales in DC, less mystery and more morality tale about the importance of families. I was intrigued, though, by Stasio’s description of Martin Walker’s Black Diamond:

The residents of the quiet town where Martin Walker sets his enchanting village mysteries relish all the good things about life in the Périgord region of France: the food, the wine, the friendships and the black truffles that grow among the white oaks in its dense forests. But all it takes is a murder to stir up the animosities of people who, while still fighting old wars, are quick to take up new ones. … There are truffles to gather and market days to attend, as well as a sumptuous funeral banquet for a murdered truffle master that surpasses any meal cooked up thus far in a series that always makes your mouth water.

I looked through some of the reader comments about the book at Amazon, noting one reader’s observation that although the book was the third in the series and he hadn’t read the first two, he felt under no disadvantage. Okay, I thought, I don’t need to start with book one. But I wasn’t sure this series was for me.

The next night, after more of 1493, I was ready. And even if I didn’t need to start with book one, why not do so? I downloaded Bruno, Chief of Police: A Novel of the French Countryside from Amazon and began.

Pretty slow going for a while. Way too much setting up of the characters. Finally, the murder victim is discovered, an eighth of the way in. Not that that speeds things up much. But soon I realize the book is heading in directions I hadn’t imagined, as it delves into issues revolving around Arab immigrants and their integration into French society as well as divisions among families going back to Vichy France, with the resistance and Nazi collaborators. There’s lots of food along the way, and a pretty good mystery, but much more than that, there’s the serious treatment of French society and culture. As for the food, even the treatment of that connects to broader issues, namely the conflicts between European Union regulations and French food-making traditions.

I had planned to finish the book on the plane flight back here Monday night, but I couldn’t do it all. Thanks to JetBlue, TV was available on board, and that meant there was the end of the Djokovic-Nadal US Open final to watch, followed by the final episode of TNT’s series The Closer. By the time I got to the book, it was getting late, and soon I fell asleep. At home, nearing 2:00 AM New York time, I read to the point where the final pieces of the mystery were falling into place, leaving the wrap-up for morning.

I’ve since had to resist jumping right into The Dark Vineyard, the next volume in the series. I don’t know how long I’ll be able to wait, but now that I’m home, there’s too much else I should be doing. Meanwhile, if you haven’t made Bruno’s acquaintance, I recommend him. As you might expect, he’s not just a simple rural cop. Outsiders may under-estimate him, but he’s sharp guy, with an interesting past, and well worth getting to know.

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