The strangest thing about Walker’s series is how often Bruno starts out like Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry and winds up like James Bond — with a dash of Anthony Bourdain. The running description on each Bruno novel is about landscape, not characters...There is even a question about whether these charming vignettes are stories in the usual sense ... Like all of Walker’s writing, however, these glimpses are rich in atmosphere and an almost visceral perception of the sympathy and compromise that bond a group of neighbors into a community. Page after page, Walker writes some of the best prose in the genre, attending to both human relationships and the texture of everyday life with a sensuous appreciation ... If you are new to Walker’s series, don’t start with Bruno’s Challenge. It doesn’t show off his plotting skills or his sly way of turning the screws in the last half of a novel. Do yourself the favor of beginning with Bruno, Chief of Police (2009). You don’t have to read the novels in order of publication, but doing so will let you witness how character relationships grow and change in realistic, unpredictable ways. However, if you already know and love Bruno and St. Denis, turn immediately to Martin Walker’s new platter of delicious morsels.
These 15 stories have wonderful settings (including restaurants, cafés, the Great Chamber of a Lascaux cave, market stalls in the tiny village of St. Denis, and Bruno’s own kitchen), and, for any gastronome, the detailed descriptions of food prep are delicious. But this is far more a food procedural than a police procedural. The stories are short on plot and suspense—for example, two market-stall owners have a dispute and Bruno resolves it; a boy is lost then found later; Bruno and the family tour a cave. Readers looking primarily for mystery will find this collection lacking, but it’s delightful reading for those who love the food and atmosphere of Walker’s novels.
Fans of The Coldest Case and Walker’s other novels set in the little French market town of St. Denis will savor this inviting story collection ... Walker smoothly integrates recipes into the text, beginning with the title story, which finds Bruno throwing together a golden wedding anniversary feast for friends on short notice and includes easy to follow instructions on how to prepare Poulet à l’estragon ... The area’s rich history and traditions are explored at every turn. Any crimes are relatively minor—nasty anonymous letters, spates of vandalism—and are resolved by cooperation, conviviality, and Bruno’s clever intervention. Culinary mystery aficionados won’t want to miss this one.