Saturday, March 31, 2012

Martin Walker's Bruno

So, after reading Black Diamond I checked three more Martin Walker books from our library system in Northern Illinois and read them in chronological order. The first is not about Bruno, but indeed sets the background for much of the back story for this village in the Dordogne Region of Southwest France.

An art-history mystery that spans 17,000 years, THE CAVES OF PÉRIGORD is an ntertaining romp through the part of southern France known for its cave paintings, including the famous Lascaux cave. Written by historian and National Public Radio commentator Martin Walker, the book is divided into segments set in three separate times: the present; 1943-44; and circa 15,000 B.C. Romance, war, and betrayal are intertwined with French politics, ancient religion, murder, family, and feminism. It's a lot to hold together in one book, but although some of the dialogue sounds wooden and the writing isn't always gloriously lyrical, Walker does a good job of maintaining intrigue while avoiding confusion.
The Book Reporter

Then, the Bruno series...

Benoît "Bruno" Courrèges is a master chef and devoted oenophile in the town of St. Denis in the beautiful Dordogne region of France. He also happens to be the town's beloved Chief of Police. In Martin Walker's three books, BRUNO, CHIEF OF POLICE, THE DARK VINEYARD, and, most recently, BLACK DIAMOND, Bruno's had his hands full with murders, suspicious fires, and truffle-smuggling ring. Get to know Bruno with excerpts from all three books!
Alfred A Knopf

And, it looks like Bruno has a new set of mysteries to solve coming this July. I'll look forward to this one, too.

Friday, March 23, 2012


The man who wanted to kill the young woman sitting beside me was three-quarters of a mile behind us, as we drove trough a pastoral setting of tobacco and cotton fields this humid morning.

A glance in the rearview mirror revealed a sliver of car, moving at a comfortable pace with the traffic, piloted by a man who by all appearances seemed hardly different from any one of a hundred drivers on this recently resurfaced divided highway.

* * *

When innocent people find themselves in situations that require the presence and protection of people like me, their reaction more often than not is a smuch bewilderment as fear. Mortality is tough to process.

But keeping people safe, keeping people alive, is a business like any other. I frequently told this to my protege and the others in the office, probably irritating them to no end with both the repetition and the stodgy tone. But I kept saying it because you can't forget, ever. It's a business with rigid procedures that we study the way surgeons learn to slice flesh precisely and pilots learn to keep tons of metal safely aloft. These techniques have been honed over the years and they worked.
Jeffrey Deaver

This is a riveting read. Truly. I loved it. Many, many twists and a few switch-backs. It's that curvey. Still, it held my attention and I sped through it in under 24 hours. Sometimes I just have to. And, I had the time yesterday.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Black Diamond

There were not many times that Bruno Courreges disliked his job. But today was certainly one of them. The weather was not to blame, a crisp day in late November with thin, high clouds trailing feebly across a sky that was determined to be blue. And even this early in the morning the sun was warm on his face and lending a rick gold to the few remaining leaves on the line of old oaks that fringed the town's rugby field. It gave warmth to the aged stone of the mairie across the river and to the red tile roofs of houses that climbed the hillside. The season was still mild enough, he noticed, for the women to have thrown open their windows and the blue wooden shutters. Splashes of white and blue, stripes and floral patterns adorned the townscape where they had heaped out bedding to air on the balconies, as their mothers and grandmothers had done before them. It might be the last day of the year that would be possible. A touch of frost had silvered the grass outside his cottage when Bruno walked his dog just after dawn that morning, and he had heard the first of the Christmas Muzak in the supermarket over the weekend.
Black Diamond
Martin Walker

Doesn't the opening paragraph just make you want to find that village, move there, and throw open your own patina'd blue wooden shutters?

I like Bruno enough to have decided to read the backlist--this is the third in the series, and there's a fourth. Fast read, entertaining. Fun. And, I know so, so much more about truffle hunting, the market, etc. than I'll ever use.

I'm soon off to find some of those black diamonds to sniff out and taste.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


(This is a big, thick book. Actually, the copy I bought used on Amazon is a Doubleday Book Club edition. It took me a lot of time to read. Unusual for me, but I was somewhat indisposed (Shingles) during the time I was reading it. I loved returning to it every single night at bedtime. I love this book.)

For all our youth the Astell family had lived in and out of Douzy, the small chateau named after the village, hidden by vineyards lining the gentle, sloping hills of Champagne. My American father and mother, his father's father, my French grandma, my brother and his twin sister, our friends, our lovers--all had made up a patchwork of happiness that none believe would ever end.

* * *

That was before. But then the serenity of Douzy was exchanged for lives that tore us apart, of death and torture for some, despite neutrality, and eventually, after America entered the war, for me a life spent in ditches and barns, hunting the enemy or being hunted--to protect or to kill.

A Farewell to France
Noel Barber

I will begin to read everything written by Noel Barber. Everything. He's written loads of fiction and non-fiction. This book is his second novel, and it makes me want to read his first, Tanamera (which is also a film) and then to proceed through his entire roster.

Noel Barber was for many years the chief foreign correspondent for the London Daily Mail. He was the first Briton to reach the South Pole since Scott, was stabbed five times covering wars in Momrocco, reported on the fall of France to the Nazis, was shot during the Hungarian uprising, and walked across the Himalayas to report the Dalai Lama's escape to India.
from the back cover flap