‘To Kill A Troubadour’ by Martin Walker
It is summer in St Denis and Bruno is busy organising the annual village concert. He’s hired a local Périgord folk group, Les Troubadours, to perform their latest hit ‘A Song for Catalonia’. But when the song unexpectedly goes viral, the Spanish government, clamping down on the Catalonian bid for independence, bans Les Troubadours from performing it.
The timing couldn’t be worse, and Bruno finds himself under yet more pressure when a specialist sniper’s bullet is found in a wrecked car near Bergerac. The car was reportedly stolen on the Spanish frontier and the Spanish government sends warning that a group of nationalist extremists may be planning an assassination in France. Bruno immediately suspects that Les Troubadours and their audience might be in danger.
Bruno must organise security and ensure that his beloved town and its people are safe – the stakes are high for France’s favourite policeman.
What’s the point of life? Is it to work and strive to attain the baubles and trinkets of accomplishment and the trappings of a late stage capitalist lifestyle?
Or is it food and wine and friends and spending your days embraced at the bosom of those who love you?
I don’t know the answer to these tricky philosophical questions – although I have a suspicion I know what my own answer would be – but what I do know is that once a year, Martin Walker releases another instalment in the career of Chief of Police Bruno Courreges and I am welcomed back to the Perigord like one returning to the arms of their family.
This time out, Bruno has a pair of nationalist Spanish extremists on the loose in his region and they appear to have a sniper’s rifle with them. Police National colleague, and frequent lunch companion, JJ’s antennae is twitching and Bruno must be at his best if the concert in St Denis is going to go ahead safely.
Walker wields his pen lightly and his love of the Perigord comes through on every page like steam from the freshly lifted lid on a dinner dish.
Now, full warning, I’m not objective about this series of novels. I’ve read each one since the inception and am often at risk of just, you know, prosthelytizing over them. It is fair to note that this is not ‘The Wire’ – although they are often harder-edged than people give them credit for.
What Walker has managed, however, is to use his illustrious career from before he turned to writing novels in think tanks and the press to thread an internationalism and entanglements from the world of intelligence and the media through his storylines.
Allowing Bruno to interact with the various levels of the French bureaucratic state as well as balancing the politics of his Mayor, his eternal flickering flame Isabelle and the Police National, the Gendarmerie and the UK Security Services (as embodied by retired chief of the JIC, Jack Crimson), allows Walker to pull off the neat trick of turning St Denis into a crucible for international relations.
Fifteen novels into the cycle, perhaps this might be beginning to take on an air of contrivance but the warm glow of Walker’s prose manages to stop this being the case.
Instead, the stories feel like a warm bath for the body and soul. No investigation must be allowed to halt a good dinner or delay the town tennis tournament. These familiar, much-loved characters mean that each novel is like pulling up a chair around a family dining room and I, for one, am looking forward to catching up with them again at the earliest possibility.
Another delightful outing to the Dordogne, highly recommended.
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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