Tue 27 Jul 2010
Reviews by L. J. Roberts
MARTIN WALKER – The Dark Vineyard. Quercus, UK, hardcover, 2009. Knopf, US, hardcover, July 2010.
Genre: Traditional mystery/police procedural. Leading character: Captain Bruno Courrèges; 2nd in series. Setting: St. Denis, France.
First Sentence: The distant howl of the siren atop the Marie broke the stillness of the French summer night.
The alarm on the top of the Mairie (city hall) of St. Denis calls Police Chief Bruno Courrèges and the volunteer squad out to a fire of a field and large barn.
Upon investigation, Bruno learns the fire was arson and the property being used to develop GMO (genetically modified organisms) crops; specifically, drought-resistant grape vines.
The Californians are coming, wanting to buy a large part of the valley, which would bring jobs and produce varietal wines. Someone wants to stop it through vandalism and maybe murder.
More and more, I look for good mysteries that rely on the mystery and on well-drawn characters rather than overt violence. This is just such a mystery.
Walker brings the Pergord area, the fictional town of St. Denis, and the people to life with descriptions so evocative, you’re inclined to pack a bag. Walker’s inclusion of information on GMOs, the impact of climate change on the wine industry, the cost of land, and more enhances the story, without ever bogging it down.
Bruno is one of the best protagonists I’ve read in awhile. He knows and cares the people and about whom Walker causes you to care as well. Bruno is savvy to what works with them, solution-oriented, his military training stands him well and he loves his community.
What I most appreciate is his good working relationship with his counterparts and superiors. The plot is well constructed. Walker does use a number of French terms; most I understood through the plot and only a couple did I have to look up, but it added veracity to the story.
This is not a fast-paced, guns-blazing, cars-racing story. It is one which builds upon itself through characters with a subtle tension as the story progresses.
I did identify the villain, but not until three quarters of the way through the story, at which point I felt it was somewhat deliberate, but I didn’t guess the motive until it was revealed.
Once I started this book, I found impossible to put down. This was a very good read and one I highly recommend.
Rating: Very Good.
The Bruno Courrèges series –
1. Bruno, Chief of Police (2008)
2. The Dark Vineyard (2009)
3. Black Diamond (July 2010)