Old Friends and Home Cooked Meals

‘Bruno’s Challenges and Other Dordogne Tales’ by Martin Walker

A bumper collection of delightful stories featuring Bruno, Chief of Police and France’s favourite cop, all set in the beautiful Dordogne valley and the ravishing Perigord region of the south west. Here is a landscape of meandering rivers with medieval castles overlooking their banks, of lush hillsides and spreading vineyards, of delicious local wines and world renowned cuisine.

With titles like ‘The Chocolate War’; ‘The Birthday Lunch’; ‘Oystercatcher’; ‘A Market Tale’ and ‘Fifty Million Bubbles’, you may be sure that champagne and gastronomy will feature as well as cosy crime in ‘Dangerous Vacation’. Bruno strides through these tales, staying calm. settling local disputes and keeping safe his beloved town of St Denis.

Only on one occasion does he panic: in ‘Bruno’s Challenge’, his friend Ivan, proprietor and chef of the town’s popular eatery, suddenly collapses on the eve of a large anniversary dinner, and he asks Bruno to take over the restaurant. After a few protests followed by some deep breaths, the inimitable Bruno meets his challenge and saves the day. (Synopsis courtesy of Quercus Books)
https://www.quercusbooks.co.uk/titles/martin-walker/brunos-challenge-other-dordogne-tales/9781529418125

To be honest, I’m pretty firmly on the record as a fan of Martin Walker and his Bruno novels, so this is not exactly going to be impartial criticism.

https://pajnewman.com/2021/05/27/a-warm-heart-for-a-cold-case/

In essence, I love them. Whenever Walker launches his noble rugby-playing, cuisine-loving, unlucky-in-love village policeman on the literary world, I’m buying it and I am ready to be transported to the Perigord, sign me up and destination added to the bucket list thank you very much.

Interestingly, what I do not like is short stories. Not sure why; it’s a prejudice like an aversion to sci-fi or the ballet. I can understand that these things might have appeal, but I kind of feel like it’s not for me.

Except, these are for me. I’d actually purchased the festive story, Le Père Noël, previously as a Kindle single and it bears re-reading and is a lovely showcase for Bruno’s generosity of spirit which is at the heart of this series of stories.

The other delight of this collection of stories are two-fold. Firstly, the gang’s (nearly) all here: Pamela, the Mad Englishwoman – who is neither mad nor English which is charming as ever – Isabelle, the itch Bruno can never scratch, Florence, the schoolteacher who Bruno saved and installed at the local école and who is the woman the fans think he should end up with. Jack Crimson, retired intelligence agent assisting Bruno as he encounters various dangers, and his daughter Miranda who now works with Pamela and the horses. Finally, local doctor Fabiola and her partner Gilles, late of Paris Match and Sarajevo where he initially met our war hero Bruno, are all present and correct and often eating.

Secondly, there is the regional cuisine of the Perigord. Walker, Bruno and his fictional friends are all dedicated to these regional delicacies: as are Walker’s daughters Kate and Fanny who appear to be instrumental in the cookbook which exists (only in German at the moment, although I’ve heard tell of an English language translation on the horizon). It is this passion which sees stories of cooking flood through this collection like flavours layered in a well-made Cassoulet.

And so I have been converted to the short story as a form, at least when it brings my old fictional friends a-calling and leaves me sated for their company but hungry for dinner.

Purchase Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/search/ref=sr_adv_b/?field-isbn=9781529418125&tag=hachetteuk-21

Apple: http://geo.itunes.apple.com/gb/book/isbn9781529418125?app=music&at=10lwkR

Bookshop.org: https://uk.bookshop.org/books/bruno-s-challenge-other-dordogne-tales/9781529418101

Google: https://play.google.com/store/search?q=9781529418125&c=books

Kobo: http://kobobooks.com/search/search.html?q=9781529418125

EBook.com: http://www.ebooks.com/aff.asp?AID=42562&term=9781529418125&CreditorID:6500

Waterstones: https://www.waterstones.com/book/brunos-challenge-and-other-dordogne-tales/martin-walker/9781529418101

Martin Walker

After a long career of working in international journalism and for think tanks, Martin Walker now gardens, cooks, explores vineyards, writes, travels, and has never been more busy. He divides his time between Washington, D.C., and the Dordogne. You can find more about Walker at his website, http://www.brunochiefofpolice.com/about-the-author.html

Murder and Mayhem Ideal for the Time of Year

‘Murder at the Abbey’ by Frances Evesham

The Brand NEW instalment in the bestselling Exham-on-Sea series.

An unsolved murder echoes down the corridors of Cleeve Abbey for years.

The Exham-on-Sea’s History Society’s annual summer picnic comes to an abrupt end when human bones are discovered in Washford River, beside historic Cleeve Abbey.

Thrilled to find evidence of a possible centuries-old murder mystery, the members of the society organise a ghost-hunting night in the ruins of Cleeve Abbey, despite amateur sleuth Libby Forest’s reservations.

Libby is a woman of many talents, a baker, chocolatier, even a reluctant sleuth, but she’s no fan of the supernatural and her doubts are justified when a friend is attacked under cover of darkness at the ghost-hunt.

Distressed and angry, Libby sets out with her new husband Max and their two dogs Bear and Shipley to uncover the connection between the murder of a sixteenth century monk and a present-day attack in picturesque Somerset.

With friends and neighbours as suspects, Libby and Max close in on the culprit only to find that others are still in danger.

There’s no time to lose as the sins of the past threaten lives in the community.

Murder at the Abbey is the eighth in a series of Exham-on-Sea Murder Mysteries from the small English seaside town full of quirky characters, sea air, and gossip.

Purchase Link – https://amzn.to/3BJyYn1

Sometimes in one’s reading life, you just want something which acts like hot chocolate on a cold autumn afternoon. I’m new to the world of Frances Evesham’s Exham-on-Sea Murder Mystery series, but I’m willing to say, her stories fit the bill.

Considering there are now seven previous instalments I need to catch up with, it is not a surprise that the characters feel comfortable in each other’s company but what Evesham does capture so well is the niggling, internecine rivalries and petty irritations which can so blight village life.

It seems to be the season for duel aspect narratives. Coincidentally, this week I was reviewing another novel where the events ran along two timelines – https://pajnewman.com/2021/11/09/jesus-only-had-12-and-one-of-those-was-a-double/ – and rewatching the Wench is Dead episode of perennial where the ailing detective sets out to solve a Victorian murder.

One of the things I enjoyed most about this was Libby’s determination to discount the supernatural. Firstly, I have a deep rooted prejudice against those type of ghost stories on the grounds it’s a narrative cop out and secondly, setting her up as the hard bitten rationalist allows us to enjoy her intellectually outpacing her mentally sluggish neighbours.

‘Murder at the Abbey’ is a fast moving novel with charming settings and eccentric characters in the best traditions of the cozy crime genre. Be sure to sup it down with some hot chocolate on a chill evening.

Author Bio – Frances Evesham is the author of the hugely successful Exham-on-Sea mysteries set in her home county of Somerset. Boldwood has republished the complete series. Frances has also started a new cosy crime series set in rural Herefordshire, the first of which was published in June 2020.


Social Media Links – 
 

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“Jesus Only Had 12 and One of Those Was a Double…”

‘Judas 62’ by Charles Cumming

A spy in one of the most dangerous places on Earth…

1993: Student Lachlan Kite is sent to post-Soviet Russia in the guise of a language teacher. In reality, he is there as a spy. Top secret intelligence agency BOX 88 has ordered Kite to extract a chemical weapons scientist before his groundbreaking research falls into the wrong hands. But Kite’s mission soon goes wrong and he is left stranded in a hostile city with a former KGB officer on his trail.

An old enemy looking for revenge…

2020: Now the director of BOX 88 operations in the UK, Kite discovers he has been placed on the ‘JUDAS’ list – a record of enemies of Russia who have been targeted for assassination. Kite’s fight for survival takes him to Dubai, where he must confront the Russian secret state head on… (Synopsis courtesy of Harper Collins)

For some time, Charles Cumming has been one of the best working spy writer’s today. Alongside Simon Conway and Mick Herron, he has been producing first-rate work in novels such as Typhoon, Trinity Six and his Thomas Kell trilogy (‘A Foreign Country’, ‘A Colder War’ and ‘A Divided Spy’)

It has always struck me as unfair for these writers to be consistently referenced alongside John Le Carre – a writer whom I hold in the highest regard. Whilst Cumming has been one of our best for 20 years, Le Carre was obviously a genre defining author whose very language of espionage has entered their trade. Now THAT is a legacy.

Last year’s ‘Box 88’ was a delight. It was spy ficiton as Proust, Cumming luxuriating in the school days of his lead character and (apparently) mining his own biography to weave a tapestry of a period as evocatively rendered as a tea soaked madeleine. Ironically, it was also the novel which arguably brought Cumming closest to Le Carre territory.

‘Box 88’, intercutting as it did Lachlan Kite’s present day problems as a team of skilled operatives invade and abduct his wife, with his recruitment into the shadowy organisation Box, has echoes of Le Carre’s ‘A Perfect Spy’. (‘A Perfect Spy’ is, lest anyone forget, the work labelled by no less an authority than Phillip Roth as, “the best English novel since the war” so this is far from a criticism.  

As much as I enjoyed ‘Box 88’, the structure was – if anything – the biggest issue with it. It was fairly obviously the beginning of a series and this meant that neither the story set in the 1980s nor that of the contemporary events really had an opportunity to ratchet up the tension. Kite obviously survived in the flashback, he was almost certain to survive in the present too.

‘Judas 62’ is obviously going to suffer from the same thing. But, here, Cumming avoids the trap by slightly altering the structure. We are reintroduced to Kite as Covid lockdowns are making espionage even more tricky and Box are working as a skeleton crew. Instead of then intercutting the narrative every other chapter, here Cumming chooses to tell one story then the other. Although we know Kite is not going to peg out any time soon, there is a greater tension and some fantastically palm-sweat inducing descriptions of his operation and the harrowing fall out which follows.

Few people can write such convincing action and conjure a world so effectively as Cumming. His ability to render the mundane – WhatsApp conversations, a cricket match –  and contrast with the high stakes of the missions of his characters.

There are few writers as adept at creating characters you care about and tension on a minute by minute basis as Cummings and, in Lachlan Kite, he has a flawed hero of self awareness and a lorry load of festering regrets.

‘Judas 62’ is a triumph of a novel and I look forward to the third instalment as soon as I can get my hands on it. This is vintage Cummings and I just hope he has ready access to the French patisserie and the old pot of tea if he’s going to use any more of remembrance of things past.

Purchase Links

Amazon: http://ads.harpercollins.co.uk/hcuk?isbn=9780008363468&retailer=amazon

Blackwells: https://blackwells.co.uk/bookshop/product/9780008363468

Bookshop: https://uk.bookshop.org/a/1153/9780008363468

Foyles: http://ads.harpercollins.co.uk/hcuk?isbn=9780008363468&retailer=foyles

Waterstones: https://www.awin1.com/cread.php?awinmid=3787&awinaffid=802343&ued=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.waterstones.com%2Fbook%2F9780008363468

Charles Cumming

Charles Cumming was born in Scotland in 1971. He was educated at Eton and graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1994 with First Class Honours in English Literature. The Observer has described him as “the best of the new generation of British spy writers who are taking over where John le Carré and Len Deighton left off”. In the summer of 1995, Charles was approached for recruitment by the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS). A year later he moved to Montreal where he began working on a novel based on his experiences with MI6. A Spy By Nature was published in the UK in 2001. (Biography courtesy of Harper Collins)

Cover Reveal: ‘A Desert Scorched Rose’

‘A Desert Scorched Rose’ by CL Tustin

Conaria 1964…
Leaving London far behind academic Victoria Barrington embarks on the trip of a lifetime, relishing her chance to explore the previously closed desert kingdom of Conaria. But things are not the way she expected and a chance purchase triggers a chain of events that will change everything.

Tadejah, the spoilt son of the king, anything he has ever wanted has been his for the taking. Ruthless, arrogant and passionately patriotic, when he spots a stolen piece of Conarian history on Victoria’s wrist his rage engenders an outrageous plan for its return.

Stranded in the desert, far from civilisation, her guide vanishes leaving Victoria to battle her heart and face the machinations of a man who has never been denied… welcome to Conaria…

Pre-Order Links


amazon.co.uk/A-Desert-Scorched-Rose-C-L-Tustin-ebook/dp/B09K6Q6QMQ/

 amazon.com/A-Desert-Scorched-Rose-C-L-Tustin-ebook/dp/B09K6Q6QMQ/

Publication Date -11th November

About the author…

C L Tustin was born and raised in the East Midlands but spent her teenage years in Sydney, Australia. Returning to the UK in 1989 via Singapore and the Middle East the travel bug has never left her and she has explored countries and cities across the world.

C L Tustin began writing at the age of 11 when she didn’t see why James Bond had to be a man and created her own female version. Her first published novel “Escaping from the Shadows” was a romance with an undertone of threat set in the social media free world of 1990; she is currently working on both a prequel and a sequel to this book.

C L Tustin has worked for two major banks, a tool company, the MOD and the NHS. She volunteers for Butterfly Conservation and passionately supports rescue dogs. C L Tustin enjoys sci-fi, writing poetry, visiting cathedrals and has a diverse collection of books.

https://www.facebook.com/C-L-Tustin-Author-109346397535473/