To Kill a Troubadour (Bruno, Chief of Police #15), by Martin Walker

To Kill a Troubadour by Martin Walker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve been a Bruno fan since the first book in the series and really enjoyed Martin Walker’s congenial blend of mystery, world politics, joie de vivre and common-sense policing in a rural French environment. At times, especially in books 12 and 13, Walker overdid certain of those aspects: Were it cooking or politics, those books were annoying to read.

Now, with To Kill a Troubadour we’re at book 15 and Walker has fully regained his literary balance: Bruno is investigating a case of looming terrorism with a connection to the very real struggle of Catalonia (a region in Spain with minor partls in France) for independence.

Then there’s Florence’s (a series regular) ex-husband out on parole and other minor issues Bruno has to take care of. All our literary friends are with us again as well: The Baron, Isabelle, Gilles, Pamela, Bruno’s mayor and so on.

In this newest instalment – written in 2021, please keep that in mind! -, though, Walker has obviously gained an uncanny prophetic ability…

»Bruno stood in his garden beneath the stars, Balzac patiently sitting beside him, and watched the big car leave, thinking about the difference between him and his friend. Bruno had been through the military and J-J had not, and in that way he resembled most of the new generations of French people who were younger than Bruno. That was fine, and Bruno understood the idealism that lay behind the idea that the new Europe had grown beyond war. But the bright and peaceful new world that had followed the Cold War had changed, become darker, and brought back some of the old fears. It was not simply the new challenges of terrorism but the old and traditional forces of national ambition. As the new Russia flexed its military muscle and used new technologies to interfere in Western elections and to poison its social media, and used nerve agents to kill defectors in England, could Europe still hope to continue in its placid, pacifist ways?«

I was intellectually part of this bright, peaceful new world. I believed in change through trade. As we all know, taught by aggressive imperialist, fascist Russia, this was not to be…

Don’t be discouraged to read this book right now – this wouldn’t be a proper Bruno if there wasn’t a lot of bright light and fun:

»Was it not Charles de Gaulle who observed that England was an old Norman colony which had not turned out well?’ Bruno asked.
‘No, it was Georges Clemenceau,’ the Mayor replied firmly, looking at Bruno with a touch of suspicion. ‘You’re not trying to tease me, are you?’
‘Heaven forbid, Monsieur le Maire,’ Bruno replied, grinning. ‘I’m simply reminding you what an industrious pupil you have.

Speaking of one major evil playing a role in this book, I must not neglect to mention the second one, hardly less corrupt and evil, namely, the churches. When asked for help in a very serious matter, the local priest replies very realistically:

»‘Of course I’m on her side, Bruno, as far as I can be given my duty to the teachings of the Church. On that there can be no compromise.’«

The eloquent metaphorical narration style is engaging and stylistically appropriate:

»Inevitably, it was Pamela who won the final point to clinch the match, leaping like a panther to jump on a scooped return that bounced high. She smashed it down so hard that the ball rose like a rocket and soared high over the netting at the far end of the court.«

Walker also expertly but unobtrusively spins real historical figures into this fascinating tale. It’s never overbearing, though, but fits perfectly into the setting. Thus, basically everything is fine in Bruno’s and Walker’s Périgord.

The slight downside of this book is the ending which is a bit abrupt. An additional final chapter to wrap things up would have been highly appreciated.

If you like Bruno, though, read this!

»Our European history and culture have long been more closely entwined than we tend to think.«

Vive L’Europe!

Four out of five stars.

Ceterum censeo Putin esse delendam

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