Martin Walker is a journalist turned writer, who took his love for the Perigord region of France and its people, and used it as a setting for a series of crime books featuring Bruno Courrèges. Bruno is the chief of police (and the solitary policeman) in St Denis, a small town with all the quirks and delights you might expect, and more. For example, there is an abundant supply of good weather, fine food, beautiful scenery, and people with less than a total adherence to the rule of law. The visit of European civil servants is handled with all the charm of a reluctant, rebellious population.
Bruno’s back story is that he is a former soldier, way overqualified for the post, who has suffered his own tragedy. He settles for the quiet life because it suits him. He is smart, caring, and fits in well to St Denis life.
This peaceful existence is broken by the murder of a somewhat reclusive local war hero. It brings the forces of law and order in from the big city, and sets off racist demonstrations and tension. Bruno navigates through these choppy waters, encounters a love interest, and handles it all with relative ease.
The writing flows, as does the story, with the background often threatening to overshadow efforts at building up the characters and the dynamics of St Denis. However, the author does as good a job as his police hero, and seems to balance all the elements with care and thought. It’s an often gentle, loving book, with a great sense of calm amidst the chaos of the big bad world outside.
At the end of the book, presumably much to the delight of the Perigord Tourist Board, there’s a comprehensive holiday guide about the place. And, there are several more books in the series, so the joys of the region are there to be savored anew.