First Sentence: The lunar calendar said that the new moon made this a good day to plant broad beans, arugula and spinach, just as the previous days of a waning crescent moon were said to be the time to weed and to start a new compost heap.
An elderly local scholar is found dead, presumably of a heart attack. Things just don’t seem quite right, however, to chief of police Bruno Courrèges, who asks for an in-depth autopsy. The annual St. Denis fête includes a car rally and luxury car show, including a Bugatti owned by a young Englishman. With it is a story about a Bugatti lost during WWII which, if found, could be worth millions. To complicate Bruno’s life further is a property dispute between the Englishman and his French family neighbors, as well as a possible international crime which brings Bruno’s past lover to town.
Walker tells us so much about Bruno from the narrative of the first chapter, including his friends, his town and its history. He has a way of drawing the reader in and making them feel part of the story.
The inclusion of the car show and rally is both interesting, and a certain indication of things to come. And then, there’s the death…
Walker creates such a strong sense of place—“He looked down at the familiar value of the Vézère River, still shrouded in the early morning mist…Stray tendrils were rising like wisps of steam as the first, hesitant rays of the sun peeked above the ridge and began to warm the most away. The spire of the old church and the houses that clambered up the hill seemed to float weightlessly in the sky.” He also invites us to pause, and consider—“There was an old Périgord proverb about love being like food: it changed with the time spent cooking.”
Just as no actual policeman would have one case on which they are working, Martin creates multiple threads. This adds veracity to the story. Bruno is an example of community policing at its best. He doesn’t always follow the letter of the law, but focuses on what is best for the individuals concerned.
Being set in France, food is always a significant element, from simple fresh fruits and vegetables from the garden, to a dinner of belinis with caviar, écrevisse à la nage (crawfish in broth) and zabaglione with, of course, the appropriate liquors and wines. One would be advised to not be hungry when reading Walker, but he does include general instructions and tips for preparing some of the food.
In spite of the food, cars, and setting, plus the fascinating history we learn, this is a mystery, and a very good one, complete with red herrings, twists and excitement.
“Fatal Pursuit” is a very good, traditional police procedural which includes a very timely theme, and a touch of possible romance
FATAL PURSUIT (Pol Proc-Comm. Bruno Courrèges, St. Denis, France-Contemp) – VG
Walker, Martin – 9th in series
Alfred A. Knopf – 2016