Before we arrive at this week’s Crime on A Europass destination in the Dordogne, we need to take a little diversion.

This story starts two year’s ago in Frankfurt am Main where I discovered Martin Walker’s first novel, Bruno, Chief of Police through a review in a German magasine.  I came home to Scotland, borrowed the unabridged audio from the library which accompanied me as I drove in and out of Edinburgh to the 2009 book festival.  The only problem was that the last disk was faulty….

That year the building of the tram lines in Edinburgh had created havoc.  The bus routes changed and went down George Street rather than Princes Street, stopping right outside the George Street Waterstone’s bookstore.   Well, what is a girl to do but sneak in every day to surreptitiously read a page or three to finish the book … taking care not to break the spine, of course!  Such a satisfying ending too. Though my conscience was pricking me.  To assuage it and to thank Waterstones for the great service, I bought the second in Walker’s series. Two years on, I finally get round to reading it (though, for the record, that’s better progress than Edinburgh’s tram building project ….)

The Dark Vineyard in question is located in the heart of the Dordogne region of France, in a fictional St Denis.  It is owned by Cresseil, who wishes to bequeath it to his young and unrelated protégé, Max. This is against French inheritance law.  No sooner is the adoption ceremony complete than both men are discovered dead. Suspicion falls on the representative of a huge American vintner that is seeking to buy up the land cheaply as part of its expansion plans.  Throw in eco-terrorism and the destruction of some genetically modified crops  and Bruno has to trample his way through some very dark juices to get to the truth. 

Though there is plenty of it,  mystery is not the main driver here.  Walker, who spends each summer at his house in the Dordogne,  is charting a way of life and policing that is very different to that found in urban crime novels.  Bruno, an ex-UN peacekeeper in Bosnia, is very jealous of his community and wishes to preserve and protect it from more aggressive methods of policing.  He often overlooks small violations of the law in order to ensure that justice is served and, as a result, finds it difficult to maintain his distance from the suspects.  Yet, this very closeness is what gives him greater insight.

That said, there is still plenty of conflict. Bruno and his boss, the mayor, hold opposing views with regard to the prospective buy-out by the Americans.  Also the national force brought in to deal with the eco-terrorism  don’t share the same fondness or respect for the community.  And Bruno’s girlfriend, part of that force from Paris, is trying to persuade Bruno to leave the country for the bright lights of the city.

The added detail about wine making and wine tasting render this a finely-balanced re(a)d; firm tannins offset with fruity flavour; overall a smooth well-rounded palate.  Perfect served with a glass of Bordeaux.

 

Further information on Bruno and his world can be found at www.brunochiefofpolice.com

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At this stage I’m temporarily hopping off the Eurocrime trail. I have a two-week pass to the 2011 Edinburgh International Book Festival, after which I’ll rejoin the tour. Au revoir.  Bis September in Deutschland!

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