Benoit Courreges, nicknamed Bruno, is the chief of police in the small town of St. Denis in southern France. The existence there is idyllic; the most Bruno usually has to worry about is protecting the townspeople from the EU inspectors who scrutinize the local market. However, when a man is brutally murdered, Bruno begins to investigate the darker side of St. Denis.
Bruno, Chief of Police is a well-written mystery whose true strength lies in its characters. Bruno is a charming man - easy to like and someone the reader is quick to trust, clearly well-respected in St. Denis and with many friends among the local population. His loyalty to the mayor, a man who helped him when he needed it most (and continues to do so), is admirable and shows Brunoís true character.
Resourceful and very sharp, Bruno looks at all facets of the investigation from every possible viewpoint. He hunts down every lead until he is sure the trail has been exhausted. In short, heís exactly the type of man mystery lovers want to read about. Though he doesnít have the tortured past of many American literary detectives, there are some skeletons in his closet he would like to forget.
The twists and turns of Walkerís mystery are satisfying and make the book surprising. Additionally, the puzzle in this novel has layers that arenít apparent at the beginning. As Bruno delves deeper, he uncovers more about Franceís controversial past concerning the Nazis. Walker portrays the general sentiment about Vichy France well Ė itís an embarrassment of the past, one that no one wants to talk about, but Bruno has to, in order to figure out the specifics of the crime.
Nor is Walker afraid to confront the undercurrents of racial tension in France. It is well known that there is resentment towards Arabs and Muslims in the country presently, and Walker discusses the situation at length. He isnít afraid to tackle heavy subjects yet doesnít drag the novel down with these issues.
Walker is a talented writer and has created an endearing and capable character in Bruno. For readersí sake, letís hope that Bruno, Chief of Police is the first in a series so we can see more wonderful novels featuring this protagonist.