Bruno, Chief of Police (Bruno, Chief of Police Series #1)

Bruno, Chief of Police (Bruno, Chief of Police Series #1)

by Martin Walker

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Overview

The first installment in the delightful, internationally acclaimed series featuring Chief of Police Bruno.

Meet Benoît Courrèges, aka Bruno, a policeman in a small village in the South of France.  He’s a former soldier who has embraced the pleasures and slow rhythms of country life. He has a gun but never wears it; he has the power to arrest but never uses it.  But then the murder of an elderly North African who fought in the French army changes all that.  Now Bruno must balance his beloved routines—living in his restored shepherd’s cottage, shopping at the local market, drinking wine, strolling the countryside—with a politically delicate investigation.  He’s paired with a young policewoman from Paris and the two suspect anti-immigrant militants.  As they learn more about the dead man’s past, Bruno’s suspicions turn toward a more complex motive.

"Enjoyable.... Martin Walker plots with the same finesse with which Bruno can whip up a truffle omelette, and both have a clear appreciation for a life tied to the land." —The Christian Science Monitor

"A nice literary pairing with the slow-food movement.... [It is] lovely...to linger at the table." —Entertainment Weekly

"A wonderfully crafted novel as satisfying as a French pastry but with none of the guilt or calories." —Tuscon Citizen's Journal

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307454690
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/06/2010
Series: Bruno, Chief of Police Series , #1
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 42,851
Product dimensions: 8.02(w) x 5.28(h) x 0.84(d)

About the Author

MARTIN WALKER is a senior fellow of the Global Business Policy Council, a private think tank based in Washington, D.C. He is also editor in chief emeritus and international affairs columnist at United Press International. His previous novels in the Bruno series are Black Diamond; Bruno, Chief of Police; The Children Return; The Crowded Grave; The Dark Vineyard; The Devil's Cave; Fatal Pursuit; The Patriarch; and The Resistance Man, all international best sellers. He lives in Washington, D.C., and the Dordogne.

Read an Excerpt

1
On a bright May morning, so early that the last of the mist was still lingering low over a bend in the Vézère River, a white van drew to a halt on the ridge that overlooked the small French town. A man climbed out, strode to the edge of the road and stretched mightily as he admired the familiar view of St. Denis. The town emerged from the lush green of the trees and meadows like a tumbled heap of treasure; the golden stone of the buildings, the ruby red tiles of the rooftops and the silver curve of the river running through it. The houses clustered down the slope and around the main square of the Hôtel de Ville where the council chamber, its Mairie, and the office of the town’s own policeman perched above the thick stone columns that framed the covered market. The grime of three centuries only lately scrubbed away, its honey-colored stone glowed richly in the morning sun.

On the far side of the square stood the venerable church, its thick walls and squat tower a reminder of the ages past when churches, too, were part of the town’s defenses, guarding the river crossing and the approach to the great stone bridge. A great “N” carved into the rock above the central of the three arches asserted that the bridge had been rebuilt on the orders of Napoleon himself. This did not greatly impress the town’s inhabitants, who knew that the upstart emperor had but restored a bridge their ancestors had first built five centuries earlier. And now it had been established that the first bridge over their river dated from Roman times. Across the river stretched the new part of town, the Crédit Agricole bank and its parking lot, the supermarket and the rugby stadium discreetly shaded by tall oaks and thick belts of walnut trees.

The man enjoying this familiar sight was evidently fit enough to be dapper and brisk in his movements, but as he relaxed he was sufficiently concerned about his love of food to tap his waist, gingerly probing for any sign of plumpness, always a threat in this springtime period between his last game of the rugby season and the start of serious hunting. He wore a uniform of sorts, a neatly ironed blue shirt with epaulettes but no tie, navy blue trousers and black boots. His thick, dark hair was crisply cut, his warm brown eyes had a twinkle, and his generous mouth seemed ready to break into a smile. On a badge on his chest, and on the side of his van, were the words POLICE MUNICIPALE. A peaked cap lay on the passenger seat.

In the back of the van were a crowbar, a tangle of battery cables, one basket containing newly laid eggs from his own hens, and another with his garden’s first spring peas. Two tennis rackets, a pair of rugby boots, sneakers, and a large bag with various kinds of sports attire and a spare line from a fishing rod added to the jumble. Tucked neatly to one side were a first-aid kit, a small tool chest, a blanket, and a picnic hamper with plates and glasses, salt and pepper, a head of garlic and a Laguiole pocketknife with a horn handle and a corkscrew. Tucked under the front seat was a bottle of not-quite-legal eau-de-vie from a friendly farmer. He would use this to make his private stock of vin de noix when the green walnuts were ready on the feast of St. Catherine. Benoît Courrèges, chief of police for the small commune of St. Denis and its 2,900 souls, and universally known as Bruno, was always very well prepared.

He chose not to wear the heavy belt that weighs down almost every policeman in France with its attachments of holster and pistol, handcuffs and flashlight, keys and notebook. There was a pair of ancient handcuffs somewhere in his van, but Bruno would have to conduct a search to find them. He had a flashlight but it could use a new set of batteries. The van’s glove compartment held a notebook and some pens, but the notebook was full of various recipes, the minutes of the last tennis-club meeting and a list of the names and phone numbers of the minimes, the young boys who had signed up for his tennis lessons.

Bruno’s gun, a rather elderly MAB 9mm semiautomatic, was locked in his office safe in the Mairie, and in recent years he had taken it out only for his annual refresher course at the gendarmerie range in Périgueux. He had worn it on duty on only three occasions in his ten years in the Police Municipale. The first was when a rabid dog had been sighted in a neighboring commune, and the police were put on alert. The second was when the president of France had driven through St. Denis on his way to see the celebrated cave paintings of Lascaux nearby; he had stopped to visit an old friend, Gérard Mangin, who was the mayor of St. Denis and Bruno’s employer. The third time was when a boxing kangaroo escaped from a local circus. On no occasion had Bruno’s gun ever been used on duty, a fact of which he was extremely but privately proud. Of course, like most of the other men (and not a few women) of St. Denis, he shot almost daily in the hunting season and usually bagged his target, unless he was stalking the notoriously elusive bécasse, a bird whose taste he preferred above all others. Bruno gazed contentedly down upon his town in the freshness of the early morning. His eyes lingered on the way the sunlight bounced and flickered off the eddies where the Vézère River ran under the arches of the old stone bridge.The place was alive with light, flashes of gold and red, as the sun magically concocted prisms in the grass beneath the willows and danced along the honey-colored façades of the ancient buildings along the river. There were glints from the weathercock on the church spire and from the eagle atop the town’s war memorial, where Bruno would later that day attend one of the ceremonies that punctuated the nation’s year.

All looked peaceful as the business of the day began, with the first customers heading under the crimson awning into Fauquet’s café, tucked into the alley beside the Mairie. Even from this high above the town he could hear the grating sound of the metal grille being raised to open Lespinasse’s tabac, which sold fishing rods, guns, and ammunition alongside the cigarettes. Bruno knew without looking that, while Madame Lespinasse was opening the shop, her husband would be heading to the café for the first of many little glasses of white wine that would keep him pleasantly lubricated until lunch.

From the secretaries and social workers to the street sweepers and tax assessors, the staff of the Mairie would also be at Fauquet’s, nibbling their croissants and taking their coffee at the long zinc bar, eying the tartes aux citron and the millefeuilles they might take home for lunch along with the essential baguette of fresh bread and scanning the headlines of that morning’s Sud Ouest. Alongside them would be a knot of old men studying the racing form and enjoying their first petit blanc of the day. Bachelot the shoemaker would take his morning glass there, while the neighbor he despised, Jean-Pierre, who ran the bicycle shop, would start his day at the Café de la Libération. Their enmity went back to the days of the Resistance, when one of them had been in a communist group and the other had joined de Gaulle’s Armée Secrète, but Bruno could not reliably remember which had been in which. He only knew that they had not spoken to one another since the war, had never allowed their families to speak beyond the frostiest “Bonjour,” and each man had devoted many of the years since to subtle but determined efforts to seduce the other man’s wife. The mayor had once confided his conviction that each had attained his objective. Bruno, as a careful guardian of his own privacy in such tender matters, was content to allow others similar latitude. He enjoyed the continuity these morning movements represented. They were rituals to be respected—rituals such as the devotion with which each family bought its daily bread only at a particular one of the town’s four bakeries, except on those weeks of holidays when they were forced to patronize another, each time lamenting the change in taste and texture. These little ways of St. Denis were as familiar to Bruno as his own morning routine on rising in his old shepherd’s cottage in the hills above the town: his exercises while listening to Radio Périgord, his shower with a special shampoo to protect against the threat of baldness, the soap with the scent of green apples. Then he would feed his chickens while the coffee brewed and share toasted slices of yesterday’s baguette with his dog, Gigi.

Across the small stream that flowed into the main river, the caves in the limestone cliffs drew his eye. Dark but strangely inviting, the caves with their ancient engravings and paintings drew scholars and tourists to this valley. The tourist office called it the Cradle of Mankind. It was, they said, the part of Europe that could claim the longest period of continuous human habitation. For forty thousand years, through ice ages and warming periods, floods and wars and famine, people had lived here. Bruno, who reminded himself that there were still many caves and paintings that he really ought to visit, felt deep in his heart that he understood why those people had chosen to remain in this gentle valley.

Down at the riverbank, he saw that the rider known to the town as the mad Englishwoman was watering her horse after her morning ride. In the town of St. Denis, everyone had a nickname, and since she was devoted to her horses and invariably carried treats to give to other people’s dogs she evidently conformed to the English stereotype of bizarre affection for animals, even those that did not hunt. Along with her love of privacy and her odd habit of filling in the Times crossword as she walked from the Maison de la Presse to collect her morning croissant from Fauquet’s café, this justified her title. As always, she was correctly dressed in gleaming black boots, cream jodhpurs and a black jacket, and her auburn hair flared out behind her neat black riding hat like the tail of a fox. Of course, she was anything but mad. Moreover, she appeared to make a good business of running her small guesthouse. She even spoke comprehensible French, which was more than could be said of most of the English who had settled here. Bruno looked further up the road that ran alongside the river and saw several trucks bringing local farmers to the weekly market. It would soon be time for him to go on duty. He took out the one item of equipment that never left his side, his cell phone, and called the familiar number of the Hôtel de la Gare.

“Any sign of them,Marie?” he asked. “They hit the market at St. Alvère yesterday, so they are in the region.”

“Not as of last night, Bruno. Just the usual guys from the museum project stayed here and a Spanish truck driver,” replied Marie, who ran the small hotel by the station. “But remember, after they were here last time and found nothing, I heard them talking about staying in Périgueux and renting a car there to put you off the scent.”

Bruno, whose loyalty was to his local community and its mayor rather than to the nominal laws of France, particularly when they were really laws the European Union made in Brussels, played a constant cat-and-mouse game with the inspectors who were charged with enforcing E.U. hygiene rules on the markets of France. Hygiene was all very well, but the locals of St. Denis had been making their cheeses and their pâté de foie gras and their rillettes de porc for centuries before the E.U. even existed, and did not take kindly to foreign bureaucrats telling them what they could and could not sell. Along with other members of the Police Municipale in the region, Bruno had established a rigorous early-warning system to alert the market vendors of their visits.

The inspectors, called “the Gestapo” by some locals in a part of France that had taken very seriously its patriotic duties to resist the German occupation, had made their first visit to the markets of Périgord in an official car with red-and-white Belgian license plates. On their second visit all the tires had been slashed. Next time they came in a car from Paris, with the telltale “75” as the last two digits of the plate. This car, too, had been given the Resistance treatment, and Bruno worried that the local countermeasures were getting out of hand. He had a good idea who was behind the slashings, and had issued some private warnings that he hoped would calm things down. There was no point in violence if the warning system could ensure that the markets were clean before the inspectors arrived.

Then the inspectors had changed their tactics and come by train, staying at local hotels. But they were easily spotted by the hotel keepers, who all had cousins or suppliers who made the crottins of goat cheese and the foie gras, the jams, the oils flavored with walnuts and truffles, and the confits that assured that this corner of France was known as the very heart of the nation’s gastronomic culture. Bruno, acting with the support of his mayor and all the elected councillors of the commune, including even Montsouris the communist, made it his duty to protect his neighbors and friends from the nuisances of Brussels, where the idea of food was known to stop at moules and pommes frites, and where perfectly good potatoes were adulterated with an industrial mayonnaise they did not have the patience to make themselves.

So now the inspectors were trying this new tack. They had succeeded in handing out four fines in St. Alvère the day before, but they would not succeed in St. Denis, whose famous market went back more than seven hundred years. Not if Bruno had anything to do with it. After one final gaze into the beautiful little corner of the world that was entrusted to him, Bruno climbed back into his van and headed for the market.

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Bruno, Chief of Police 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 39 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In rustic Perigord, France, Police Officer Benoit "Bruno" Courreges is very popular amidst the villagers mostly for his lifestyle; he lives like they do in a shepherd's cottage and shopping at the local market. As a cop he has arresting authority, but never uses it as his presence leads to guilt and everyone behaving. He assumes his most significant job is to protect the local merchants and farms from the European Union pests. However, a homicide of an elderly French WWII veteran from Algeria upsets the former soldier turned village cop. The murder is bad enough, but the swastika carved on the victim's chest angers Bruno. As he investigates a horde of homicide detectives and crime experts from Paris try to take over the case from him, but he refuses to allow them to lead. Initially members of the violent anti-immigrant National Front are the prime suspects, but soon with a help of a scholar, Bruno begins to look back to WWII for the culprit. The second Porigord thriller (see THE CAVES OF PORIGORD) is a super investigative cozy that brings to life a small rustic village. The villagers including Bruno are priceless as their eccentricity and their outlook towards the EU as unwelcome intruders forcing the local heroes to be "smugglers" enhance the clever whodunit. Martin Walker cleverly links five decade old transgressions to a modern day homicide as fans will say oui oui to BRUNO CHIEF OF POLICE. Harriet Klausner
DoItNow More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed the writing. Bruno is an interesting character. It reminds me of Hamish in the M.C. Beaton books. The setting are fun to read about and the characters nicely drawn
Angie Culasso More than 1 year ago
all the details of a small village cop with his own chickens and very serious plot will enchant u and u will miss Bruno.
MexicoDan More than 1 year ago
Not a barn-burner, but charming enough to merit reading others in the Bruno series.
LoyalOpposer More than 1 year ago
This was my first read of one of Martin Walker's "Bruno" books. (And this is the first in the series. The book is about an ex-soldier who has settled in the Perigord region of the south of France and has been chief of police for the past ten years. Bruno carries no gun and is an able diplomat who prefers persuation and common sense to rigid rule enforcement. In addition, he is a gourmand
FadingRedhead More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book. It is good to see that various groups are dealing with racism and it is not just a problem in the America South. I was a little disappointed with the ending but enjoyed reading about the meals the characters shared. I really liked Bruno as he seems to be a real man and not a one dimensional character.
Anonymous 9 months ago
It never felt to me that the author cared much for the mystery central to this story but more in describing through the police detective, Bruno, his home in the Perigieux, his pate and truffles, and jardin potager in minute, numbing detail. It is easy to understand why the mystery is lost within these meanderings. The far-fetched plot devices and old WWII grievances dredged up between mouthfuls of truffles and eggs to explain racial motivations for killing an elder Arab in a small village defy credulity and make the eyes glaze over esspecially when it gives the police chief, Bruno a chance to moralize and bemoan the far right in France. He is not at all an authentic character. Does he need to ask two British women in tennis whites how he would go about researaching 'a soccer team in Marseilles' around 1939? Wouldn't any French person let alone a police chief know that? He comes across as a little thick and unknowledgeable about police work but very keen to describe the renovations to his home, the view, blah blah blah. I became impatient for this to 'get good' because he seems to be such a celebrated mystery writer. Alas, I am not going to read on now that I am already mid-way to find out.
brive on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A hefty marketing budget and a prestigious publisher couldn¿t redeem this inept effort by a veteran business writer crossing over to fiction. Either author Walker has a great agent or Knopf¿s acquisitions editor got an offer s/he couldn¿t refuse. In any case, this amateurish manuscript needs massive editorial intervention. An exquisitely boring plot, interrupted by cartoonish and saccharine depictions of Perigord culture, made me happy to return this one to the library, thankful I hadn¿t bought it.
bookappeal on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Bruno is the sole police officer in St. Denis, a small country village in France. After serving in Bosnia, he enjoys his quiet life and the pleasures of good food, wine, and company. A violent and vengeful murder shakes the foundation of St. Denis, especially since it seems to be a hate crime against Arabs. Bruno provides local intel to the Police Nationale and finds time to strike up a romance with one of its officers. Historical detail provides clues to the crime and leaves Bruno with no easy answers. Similar to Louise Penny's Armand Gamache series but not as well-crafted or insightful.
ros.peters on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Even though the topic of this novel is a brutal murder which also includes drug trafficking, right-wing politics and anti immigration themes, it is told gently amid the beautiful countryside of France. The setting of the novel is central to the story. The character, Bruno, is an appealing male who is thoughful and friendly and lives an idyllic lifestyle surrounded by beautiful food and wine. I loved reading this story which unfolds slowly in keeping with the tranqul setting and thoughful chief of police.
mlanzotti on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This novel is the first of two about bruno, the other one is Dark Vineyard. Both with a wonderful sense of place,a small town in France. They both have the requisite mystery,but a full of the pleasures of food,small town,and friends.
smik on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When I reviewed THE DARK VINEYARD recently, I was really determined to read the first in the series, and I'm glad to say that it has lived up to my expectations of being an excellent read.In these days of large city living and policing that seems super organised, rationalised, and even institutionalised, it seems nice to believe there is, somewhere in the world, the sort of rural policing that happens with Bruno, the Chief of Police in St. Denis. Bruno is what you would like every policeman to be, part of his community, aware of its members, a human being who just happens to be a policeman.Bruno is devoted to "his little corner of paradise." He ensures that his community recognises its past, respects its elders, welcomes incomers, and encourages its young people. That's why it is such a shock to think that the death of elderly Hamid al-Bakr could possibly be a racist killing. In working out what has happened, at the same time as tamping down possible flare-ups, Bruno show his real worth as a policeman. We get glimpses too of Bruno's personal and social life, of the way he contributes to the whole social fabric. In solving the crime Bruno demonstrates what a good detective he really is.This is an excellent start to the series and I recommend it to you particularly if you like cozies.I kept thinking of what, in my reading past, the story reminds me of - perhaps a combination of Miss Read, Don Camillo, and Miss Marple?
cathyskye on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
First Line: On a bright May morning, so early that the last of the mist was still lingering low over a bend in the Vézère River, a white van drew to a halt on the ridge that overlooked the small French town.After a horrifying stint with the U.N. peacekeeping forces in Bosnia, Benoît Courrèges (known as Bruno) has found a home he has come to love very much-- the small village of St. Denis in the Périgord region of southwestern France. There with the help of his friends and his own two hands, he has built a home, and there he knows everyone, and everyone knows him. The mayor of St. Denis also likes and respects Bruno and works with him for the good of the village. Bruno has a gun, but doesn't wear it. He has the power to arrest, but doesn't use it. Instead, he uses his common sense, his knowledge of the people and the area, and his powers of observation to do his job well.When an elderly North African who fought in the French army is brutally murdered, the sensitive issues of immigration and religion are raised and threaten to tear the village apart. The larger police agencies move in to take command, Paris sends in a hotshot to oversee everything, and Bruno finds that he's going to need every molecule of his ability to see justice done with the minimum amount of damage. Was the old man murdered by Fascist militants... or is there a deeper, more complex motive?Almost from the opening paragraph, I fell into the embrace of this book. I seldom use the word "charming" because when many other people do, it sounds twee. However, in the case of Bruno, Chief of Police, charming is the only word that fits, and there's nothing derogatory about my usage. The village of St. Denis and its people are so lovingly and meticulously drawn that they came to life as I read. Food played an important role throughout, and Walker described it so well that I often found myself becoming hungry.In the first few chapters of the book, the action centers on how Bruno and the village work together to escape the clutches of the fine-happy European Union officials who constantly roam the country to ensure that all the hygiene rules are being followed to the letter. This leads to many comic scenes that made me laugh. However, when the old man's murder is discovered, the mood turns serious. France's troubles with increasingly large numbers of Muslim immigrants are well known, and Walker depicts this with honesty and sensitivity.Throughout the book, Bruno's character is revealed layer by layer-- and what a marvelous character he is! He willingly gives up control to the larger law enforcement agencies, but they all soon learn that his knowledge of the area and its inhabitants are invaluable.Many times in the mysteries I've read, mayors seem to be a universal target of ridicule and scorn; people who've obtained their positions for the power and prestige and what those two P's can do for them. It was very refreshing to have a mayor play a major role in a book who was intelligent, honest, just, and kind-- and who used his position for the betterment of his community.Did I know the identity of the murderer before it was revealed? No, and when it was revealed, it was a "head slapper" for me because Walker had planted several clues all along the way. I was too immersed in the village and its inhabitants to see them for what they were.Will I be visiting Bruno and St. Denis again? Just try to stop me! This is one of the most enjoyable reads I've had so far this year.
cfk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Delightful writing with never a falter.
stephaniechase on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A wonderful start to a new series following life in the small French town of St Denis, through the eyes of its one and only police officer, Bruno. The story manages to both be enchanting -- lovely descriptions of life, food, and landscape -- and chilling, with the plot touching on the repression of Algerians, the Vichy regime, and immigration. I am eager to read the next in the series!
constructivedisorder More than 1 year ago
Very enjoyable book.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Especially for those who liked simeon and you might like to visit unlike the latest norse that deters
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sltVA More than 1 year ago
This series is a wonderful look at France after WWI and the truffle industry; the characters are beautifully written and the book makes you want to go and meet these people; would definitely recommend for a book club too!
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bgKY More than 1 year ago
Enjoyable light reading.