Bruno's Challenge and Other Dordogne Tales by Martin Walker

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Bruno's Challenge and Other Dordogne Tales by Martin Walker

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Category: Short Stories
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A collection of fourteen stories featuring Bruno, Chief of Police and the Dordogne. There's the occasional crime but overall there's a strong feel-good factor. The stories are occasionally heavy on information but they're still a good read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: November 2021
Publisher: Quercus
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1529418101

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I'm not usually a fan of short stories - I find it all too easy to put the book down between stories and forget to pick it up again - but I am a fan of Martin Walker's Bruno Courreges Mysteries so the temptation to read Bruno's Challenge was hard to resist and I'm rather glad that I didn't even try. For those new to the series, there's an excellent introduction that will tell you all you need to know about who's who and the background to why Bruno is in St Denis.

The titular story is a feel-good tale of the town coming together when someone is taken ill. There's an added bonus in that if you should need to cater for thirty people, the recipes are all here. Continuing on the food theme, The Birthday Lunch is a celebration of the archaeological richness of the Perigord. The Chocolate War is only incidentally about chocolate` - it has more to do with the economics of the marketplace and building cooperation rather than confrontation.

The Lost Boy is a heart-warming tale of a young boy who wanders off in search of a cave - he's been promised a visit - and then gets lost. He's found by a combination of the sniffer skills of Bruno's dog, Balzac, and new technology - a drone.

Some stories are a little heavy on information and short on action, such as A Question of Chabrol, Boeuf Neanderthal and The Collaborator. They're interesting in themselves but I did feel that I was being educated rather than entertained. Equally, I'll confess that The Green Army might well have fallen into this category but I was really interested in the subject - winemaking - and even more delighted when the subject came up again in Mère Noël which highlighted the finances of running a vineyard - and the ingenuity required to make it pay when the going gets tough.

My favourite stories: Dangerous Vacation was more of a mystery of the type which we're used to Bruno solving in his full-length books and highlighted to local police preference for solving a problem rather than making an arrest. A Market Tale is a love story, which begins over a punnet of strawberries and continues to a neat ending which I really wasn't expecting. The construction of the story is excellent. I liked Fifty Million Bubbles too. It proves that winning should not be at any cost and that knowing you've done it fairly is what matters most.

Oystercatcher sees Bruno meeting up with the love of his life - Isabelle - on the bay near Bordeaux, where he's called up to track down thieves who are putting the oyster trade at risk. It's a taste of the Action-man Bruno we all know and love. My favourite quote comes from Le Père Noël when the townsfolk gather to sing at Christmas: it's how Europe ought to be, with everyone singing the same tune in their own tongue.

It was a good read which I sprinted through all-too-quickly. It was good to catch up with people I've known for years and meet a few newcomers. I was sorry when I got to the end of the book, which isn't bad when you don't like short stories! I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

For another feel-good place you'd like to live, we can recommend Louise Penny's Chief Inspector Gamache Novels.

Martin Walker's Commissar Bruno Courreges Mysteries in Chronological Order

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