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The Devil’s Cave

Last September, I got a little carried away with the crime novels whose hero is Bruno, the chief of police of Martin Walker’s fictional Dordogne town, St. Denis. I first learned about Bruno from Marilyn Stasio’s crime novel roundup in the NYT Sunday book review last Labor Day weekend, in which she wrote about the third Bruno novel. We were in NY at the time, heading to Nantucket. A few days later, when I was ready for a new book, I downloaded the first one, the eponymous Bruno, Chief of Police.

I wrote at the time that it was pretty slow going at first, and never did speed up much, but I was hooked. As I would continue to read more Bruno books, I would keep coming back to the realization that Bruno is good company. Like any hero of a crime series, he is smarter than he lets on, has a complicated past, and misses nothing. What makes Bruno distinctive is the way he has adapted to, and fallen in love with, the daily rhythms and people of the Dordogne, as the reader inevitably does too. Especially tantalizing are the local food and wine. Bruno’s friends supply the finest ingredients, and Bruno cooks with aplomb. Yes, there are crimes to be solved, and women to become entangled with, but however complex life becomes, there’s always the pleasure of the table. And the companionship of the finest dogs and horses. Why would one move to Paris in search of a big-time career when one is already surrounded by the world’s riches? Even art. Cave art.

On finishing Bruno, Chief of Police, I moved on to the second and third Bruno novels, The Dark Vineyard and Black Diamond, which I wrote about here and here. How long would I have to wait for Bruno 4? As I reported soon after, not long at all.

Black Diamond having been published just in August, I anticipated a long wait for Bruno 4. But I wasn’t thinking straight, what with Martin Walker being British and these being British books. Once I came out of my stupor and looked on the Amazon UK site, I discovered that I wouldn’t have to wait long at all for the British publication of Bruno 4. In fact, it was out already. The Crowded Grave, just out, the end of September. Unfortunately, I couldn’t download the Kindle version, that being unavailable here until US publication of the hardcover. I ordered the UK hardcover.

I didn’t get around to reading The Crowded Grave until mid-November. Looking back at my post of the time, I see that what I had to say is similar to what I wrote above:

Bruno is marvelous company. He has found a welcoming home in St. Denis, cradle of early humans, home of the best food and wine that France has to offer. He can’t leave, even if love might call him elsewhere. It’s not going to happen. And who can blame him? Who, indeed, doesn’t want to join him?

The Crowded Grave was published in the US just a month ago. Which means that over in the UK, it must be time for Bruno 5. And indeed it is. The Devil’s Cave was published on August 2. My copy arrived this past Tuesday, courtesy of UK Amazon, and I’m now 200 pages in.

Slow is certainly the word for this one. But Bruno is still good company. In the chapter I just finished, he ponders what he can prepare on short notice for a dinner with the national police officer, down from Paris on business for the weekend, who is also his ex-girlfriend.

Bruno [was] thinking what was available in his store cupboard and freezer that could be quickly prepared. He had onions and bread and cheese and some good venison stock, so a hearty onion soup would be a good way to start. … He had spaghetti, but he never thought of it as a main course, so he’d make a risotto instead, with some dried cèpe mushrooms and lardons. There was still some mâche in the garden for a salad.

I’m hoping I’ll get an invite.

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