The good life—and it’s very good indeed—in the rural commune of St. Denis is shattered by a particularly vicious murder.
Until Hamid Mustafa al-Bakr was slaughtered, the biggest professional problem Benoît Courrèges, the police chief universally known as Bruno, had was keeping meddlesome food inspectors from closing the Périgord markets. Once sports-bar owner Karim al-Bakr’s grandfather, who fought for France in the Algerian war, has been discovered bound and eviscerated, a swastika carved into his chest, Bruno seems to have stepped into a daunting new weight class. Though the decades-long antipathy between shoemaker Philippe Bachelot and bicycle-shop owner Jean-Pierre Courrailler shows that petty rivalries can blossom even in idyllic St. Denis, everyone knows everyone—and Bruno knows everyone—much too well to admit any possibility of a hate crime. Nor is Bruno convinced when the obligatory outsiders brought in to solve the case train their eyes on Richard Gelletreau, the doctor’s teenaged son, whose only offenses concern drugs, porn and kinky sex, and on Karim himself. Why did the killer steal Hamid’s Croix de Guerre and a photograph of the football team he played for half a century before? In order to restore his paradise to its original bliss, Bruno will have to plumb the depths of the past and unearth secrets no one wants revealed.
Walker (The Caves of Périgord, 2002, etc.) sets a charming table with little mystery and less suspense, but the civilized approach to detection will likely appeal to fans of Roderic Jeffries’s Inspector Alvarez.