A Bruno, Chief of Police Mystery by Martin Walker
Review: St. Denis's only policeman, Benoît "Bruno" Courrèges, finds himself investigating several crimes, not the least of which is the murder of his dear friends, Hercule Vendrot, a man he's known since his army days in the Algerian War, in Black Diamond, the third mystery in this series by Martin Walker.
The troubles actually begin when the owner of a regional sawmill, Scière Pons, loses a lawsuit filed by his son, Guillaume, a Green Party activist, and has to shut down his operation. Guillaume, a successful businessman in his own right, has spent much of his life abroad, estranged from his father but has returned to his home town with a goal to improve the lives of its residents. Putting a large number of them out of work may seem a strange way to accomplish this, but he believes a strong community is one that has fresh air to breathe and clean water to drink. Meanwhile, the area's other economic strength, its prime truffles — black diamonds — that command premium prices, is being threatened by inferior products being illicitly introduced into the supply, primarily from China. When local truffle expert Hercule is found murdered, Bruno initially thinks it may be related to the illegal trade that he was apparently tracking. But Hercule was also an intelligence officer, and knew many things … secrets that someone may have risked killing for.
A simple cozy village mystery this is not. It starts out almost as such, with Bruno's attention primarily focused on the truffle trade, and how foreign products might be substituted in the supply chain, the political situation between father and son, jobs and the environment, allowed to simmer in the background. Hercule's murder occurs about a third of the way in, and it is at this point when the storyline starts getting really complicated — and very dark, though it is tempered somewhat with brief side trips into gastronomy and romance. Much of the appeal of village mysteries is that sinister secrets are hidden behind the quaint facades the public sees and it is up to the local authorities to discover them. That's true here up to a point, but the plot seems unnecessarily complicated if credibly constructed, with too many intersecting storylines (or motives for murder, if you will) for Bruno to pick through, one or two of which could easily have been saved for the next book in the series.
Acknowledgment: Random House provided a copy of Black Diamond for this review.
Review Copyright © 2011 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
The Crowded Grave
Knopf (Hardcover), July 2012
ISBN-13: 9780307700193; ISBN-10: 0307700194
Location(s) referenced in Black Diamond: France
— ♦ —
Black Diamond by Martin Walker — A Bruno, Chief of Police Mystery
Publication Date: August 2011
List Price: $24.95
— ♦ —
Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
Mysterious Reviews is a Division of
The Hidden Staircase Mystery Books
and a Business Unit of the
Omnimystery Family of Mystery Websites