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Black Diamond

I wrote in mid-September about my discovery of the Bruno crime novels, written by Martin Walker. Marilyn Stasio reviewed the latest one in her Sunday NYT roundup of mysteries that appeared four weeks ago. We were at the start of our New York/Nantucket trip that weekend. When I finished Tripwire (part of my program of remedial reading of old Jack Reacher thrillers) on Nantucket a few days later, tempted as I was to read the third and newest Bruno novel, I turned instead to the first one, Bruno, Chief of Police. This is, of course, one of the benefits of e-books. All I had to do was look up the title, and a minute later I was reading it.

Bruno is not just chief, he is the entire police force in the small village of St. Denis. St. Denis lies in the Dordogne region, home of cave paintings, wines, truffles, and so much else that makes France France. He is also a man with a past, a veteran of the UN peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. And he’s good company, both for the townsfolk and us readers.

No sooner did I finish Bruno, Chief of Police than I started in on The Dark Vineyard, the second of the series. I finished it two Wednesdays ago and was eager to start in on the latest one, Black Diamond, the one Stasio had reviewed a month ago. But I restrained myself, both because I had other things that needed doing and because the newest Jack Reacher thriller, The Affair, would be available the following Tuesday. Maybe it would make more sense to take a break from Bruno and read that first.

Which I did. As I reported here and here, I couldn’t put it down, finishing it last night. At which point I wasted no time downloading Black Diamond. After a night’s sleep, I started in on it this morning.

Black diamonds, it turns out, are truffles. Bruno has a keen interest in them, not only as a consumer, but also as a grower, and after just a couple of chapters of the new book, as an investigator of the local truffle market. I won’t say more about the plot. I don’t want to spoil anything.

The transition from Bruno to Reacher and back is not a smooth one. They do share many traits, most notably their mysterious pasts, their sharp intelligence, and the tendency of others to underestimate them. But Reacher is always drifting on, while Bruno has settled into life in St. Denis and become a part of the community. He takes time for some of the basics, like conversations with neighbors, cooking the most extraordinary meals, long lunches with wine. Not that there’s anything wrong with Reacher’s preference for diners and basic food. I just wouldn’t describe Reacher as good company. I’d be honored to know him. But I don’t see us hanging out much. Bruno — maybe we’d hang a bit.

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