As always when I hit a bit of a rough patch in the reading department (more about that later) I turned to a recommendation from the ever-reliable Maxine for something that I could nearly guarantee would be a good read.
Bruno Courrèges is the Chief of Police in the town of St Denis in the Dordogne region of France, population just over 3000 people. Bruno’s job is to know everyone in town, understand their business and family connections and maintain a balance between upholding all the laws of the land and being realistic when it comes to some of the more oppressive requirements of the European Union. In order to draw readers into this world, one which most of us would have little first-hand knowledge of, Walker introduces the town and Bruno as almost equally important, and delightful, characters. We learn a lot about their respective histories and their current activities. The town is trying to retain its unique traditions while joining in the new ‘single Europe’ and so there are funny, but insightful, incidents that involve skirting around the regulations for cheese-selling and other such important issues. At the same time Bruno is establishing a home for himself, having been a soldier and orphaned at a young age, and has refurbished a house (which sounds delightful) and become involved in local sporting clubs.
This rather idyllic (though realistic) setting receives a jolt one day when an elderly Arab immigrant is brutally murdered, with a swastika carved on his body. This event, assumed to be a race-related crime, is outside the scope of Bruno’s expertise so a regional squad is brought in to investigate, though they rely on Bruno’s local knowledge so he remains involved in the investigation. For a book that some might see as a ‘cosy’ kind of tale, it tackles head-on one of the hot-button political issues of our time, large-scale immigration by people of a different ethnicity or religion. Walker deals with it intelligently and in a balanced way, outlining legitimate and realistic concerns on both ‘sides’ of the issue, and I couldn’t help but think it’s a shame more news services aren’t so erudite and thoughtful in exploring this topic.
Without giving away too much I have to mention the resolution to the book, which gave it an extra half a star on my scale. Bruno and his boss, the Mayor, have to consider whether or not to identify the culprit(s) to the wider community and the other police authorities involved to ensure a prosecution. The older I get the more I like seeing this kind of theme explored as it seems to me our various legal systems don’t always produce the result that does the most good. I liked the way Walker tackled this idea here; his characters did not develop a sudden and fervent belief in vigilantism, nor did they take action without carefully considering the implications of not informing the higher authorities for everyone, not just the immediate victim and culprit(s). Would that such things happen more in real life.
Bruno, Chief of Police is a thoroughly engaging and surprisingly thought-provoking novel that I recommend to readers (or listeners) of any sort as I think it offers something for everyone and Ric Jerrom’s narration is superb. There’s little overt violence (Bruno is proud of never having used his service weapon) but tough and somewhat dark issues are addressed alongside the lighter side of life, including descriptions of several meals that are guaranteed to have your mouth watering. This one’s a keeper and I’ve already lined up the second one in the series to listen to soon.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
My rating 4/5
Author website http://www.brunochiefofpolice.com/
Narrator Ric Jerrom
Publisher BBC WW [this edition 2009, original edition 2008]
ISBN N/A (downloaded from audible.com)
Length 8 hours 10 minutes
Format audio (mp3)
Book Series #1 in the Bruno, Chief of Police series
Source I bought it