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Friday 17 September 2021

‘The Coldest Case’ by Martin Walker

Published by Quercus,
25 May 2021.
ISBN: 978-1-78747-774-2 (HB)

Bruno Courreges, chief of police for a large part of the Dordogne; also rugby coach, first-class cook, gardener and horserider, and an all-round good bloke. Every now and then he even solves a crime, usually the kind you don’t expect to find in a quiet rural community, because Bruno is no ordinary country copper.   

He’s solved enough to fill a lengthy series, of which The Coldest Case is the fourteenth. In the company of the mayor of St Denis, his home village, and an assortment of residents and visitors to the area, he sets out to investigate a case which has haunted his friend Chief of Detectives Jalipeau, better known as J-J, since he was a young copper himself thirty years ago: a decaying body found in a shallow grave, clearly murdered but never identified. After a museum visit which shows him how new technology can reconstruct a fully formed face from just a skull, Bruno sets out to put the case to rest and ease J-J’s mind as he heads towards retirement.

Meanwhile, back in St Denis, a friend of Bruno’s is causing political mayhem by challenging the American government’s right to conceal sensitive historical papers from its French counterpart; and the fiercely hot summer brought on by global warming is threatening to engulf the area in forest fires.

But this is no ordinary cosy crime novel. Martin Walker has woven these apparently disparate strands into an absorbing mystery with plenty of tense moments and a climax as dramatic as any city-based whodunit. As a background to the great story devotees of the series (and I’ve been one since I first encountered Bruno’s world) have learned to expect, the everyday lives of the regular characters continue to develop. Relationships flourish, and new ones spring up; Pamela’s riding stables is the venue for regular get-togethers and thrilling evening rides. There’s even a starring role for Balzac, Bruno’s endearing basset hound; he was recently put out to stud and becomes the father of nine adorable puppies. Isabelle, the love of Bruno’s life, makes a guest appearance, leaving the reader to wonder if their very different lives will ever let them fulfil their mutual passion.

And threaded through it all is the glorious food and wine of the Perigord, this time with an added vegan twist. Bruno reconnects with an almost-lost cousin, who provides an excuse for some weekend feasting; and a young woman who takes on the task of recreating a head from a skull sets him an unexpected culinary challenge, which he meets with his usual skill and imagination.

If you’re not yet acquainted with Bruno and the good folk of St Denis and the wider Perigord, I urge you to go in search of them. You won’t regret it; that’s a promise.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Martin Walker  was educated at Balliol College, Oxford and Harvard. In twenty-five years with the Guardian, he served as Bureau Chief in Moscow and, in the US, as European Editor. In addition to his prize-winning journalism, he wrote and presented the BBC series Martin Walker’s Russia and Clintonomics.  Martin has written several acclaimed works of non-fiction, including The Cold War: A History. He lives in Washington and spends his summers in his house in the Dordogne. Many of his novels feature the old-school chief of police, Captain Bruno. The most recent being The Coldest Case. You can visit Bruno’s website at

Lynne Patrick  has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives in Oxfordshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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