Martin Walker

Senior Director of the Global Business Policy Council and Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of United Press International, journalist Martin Walker has an impressive list of current positions in the academic world, and in the media. He also maintains a house in the Périgord region of France, which fits comfortably with the series of novels based on former soldier, gourmet cook and village policeman, Benoit 'Bruno' Courreges.

There are a number of nonfiction titles as well, but for the time being the Bruno series will do very nicely, thank you.


  • Bruno, Chief of Police (2009), where where the series starts with the key characters and the town of St Denis introduced against a background of not quite open revolt against EU inspectors enforcing regulations that threaten long-standing traditions involving pâté de foie gras, home made cheeses and other produce. 

While that provides an on-going theme through the series (it seems Walker starts with a particular local tradition that’s under threat ad works the major plot line around it) here it serves as a way to sort out a bit of the who’s who side of things before the murder that provides the real meat of the plot line.

Shortly after the VE Day observances in the village an elderly Algerian war hero, who fought for the French in Germany in 1945 and later in Vietnam and Algeria is killed and the body is found with a swastika carved into his chest. Since the victim is a member of the local North African community and his son (maths teacher at the lschool) and grandson (cafe proprietor, local rugby star about to become a father) are valued members of the wider community there’s a natural assumption that the crime was racially motivated.

Concerns about wider issues relating to racism and anti-immigration politics mean the investigation is taken over by detectives from the Police Nationale, which brings Isabel Perrault into the picture, and while two suspects are identified fairly quickly there’s nothing to tie them to the murder although they’re likely to go down for other offences.

The outside investigators, naturally, recognize the value of Bruno’s local knowledge so while it’s nominally out of his jurisdiction he stays involved in the investigation. It’s not as if he’s exactly run off his feet in the course of his regular duties, which is, of course, how he manages to fit in his rugby and tennis coaching. As he becomes involved with Isabelle and they begin to unravel the facts behind the murder, digging into wartime history, the Vichy regime and the Resistance in the Périgord what they find presents Bruno and his boss, the Mayor with a moral dilemma once he’s identified the culprits.

While it’s an obvious first in a series where the books probably should be read in order, there’s enough separation from the sequels to make it an interesting out of order read. 

  • The Dark Vineyard, where an arson attack on a research station where genetically modified crops are being grown, apparently without the necessary paperwork being filed, is followed by two seemingly accidental deaths caused by inhaling carbon dioxide from fermenting grapes while a California winery is seeking to set up a large scale mass production winery and an attractive female French Canadian would-be winemaker turns out to be something other than what she seems.

The protagonist and the setting both work well, and Mr Walker goes on the list of authors to watch for when it comes to visiting the local library, and if one of the titles happens to catch the eye in an el cheapo bin...

  • Black Diamond (2010), where a scam involving the region’s truffle harvest, a local governnment election and a turf war between Asian crime syndicates combine to throw complications into the day to day life of Bruno’s quiet rural lifestyle, with its markets, hunting and hearty rural cuisine.

As the Chief of Police in St. Denis, Bruno Courrèges has plenty on his plate, but still finds time to teach kids to play tennis, train the town's up and coming rugby players and go hunting with his friends. He also, obviously, has a keen interest in the outcome of the local elections, where the Green candidate Guillaume (Call me Bill) Pons, having succeded in closing down his father’s sawmill, has managed to put together a joint ticket with the Socialists, looks likely to oust the incumbent and is in the process of disrupting the emerging relationship between Bruno and Pamela, the expatriate Englishwoman who turned up in The Dark Vineyard.


© Ian Hughes 2012