cover image Bruno’s Challenge and Other Stories of the French Countryside

Bruno’s Challenge and Other Stories of the French Countryside

Martin Walker. Knopf, $27 (256p) ISBN 978-0-593-53422-9

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 featuring Bruno Courrèges, the town’s genial chief of police. As St. Denis is in the Périgord, the culinary heartland of France, a thread of gastronomy and bonhomie plays a significant part in all 14 tales. 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. Prehistoric cooking methods figure in “Boeuf Neanderthal,” as Bruno prepares a menu for the Société Historique et Archéologique du Périgord. “The Green Army” describes biodynamic viticultural techniques, and “Sugar Lumps” reveals the proper way to drink absinthe. 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. Agent: Stephanie Cabot, Susanna Lea Agency. (Mar.)