Bruno, Chief of Police

By MARTIN WALKER

Early reviewers of this scenic, sharply written series debut about the head cop in a small village called St. Denis on the River Vézère, in the Dordogne region of southern France (where the astounding caves of Périgord are) have already called it a perfect blend of Peter Mayle and Alexander McCall Smith. I’d like to add the late, much-missed Magdalen Nabb, author of the Marshal Guarnaccia books, to the mix. Benoît Courrèges, called Bruno by his many friends, is a fellow of many parts and talents. A former soldier who has embraced the pleasures and slow rhythms of country life, he lives in a restored shepherd’s cottage, shops carefully at the weekly market, coaches the local children in rugby and tennis, makes his own excellent foie gras and pickled walnuts, and outwits the European Union bureaucrats from Brussels who try in vain to enforce their stupid laws governing local produce. He also solves the occasional crime, using his considerable wit and the charm that makes him glow in the eyes of many local women — including a memorable character called the Mad Englishwoman. The peace of St. Denis is shattered by the savage murder of an elderly North African who fought in the French army. The man is found with a swastika carved into his chest, leading Bruno and his friend and mentor, the Mayor, to at first fear that militants from the anti-immigrant National Front are responsible. But when a visiting scholar helps to untangle the dead man’s past, Bruno’s investigation draws him into one of the darkest chapters of French history: World War II, a time of terror and betrayal that set brother against brother. Walker is the senior director of the Global Business Policy Council and has written many serious nonfiction books. He divides his time between Washington and the South of France — where with any luck he will continue to tell us more stories about Bruno.