Saturday, July 5, 2014

THE DARK VINEYARD, fifth July meme book review

THE DARK VINEYARD (Bruno, Chief of Police #2)
Alfred A. Knopf
$16.95 trade paper, available now

Rating: 4* of five

The Publisher Says: In this riveting sequel to Martin Walker's internationally acclaimed novel Bruno, Chief of Police, some of France's great pleasures--wine, passion and intrigue--converge in a dark chain of events that threaten the peaceful village of Saint-Denis.

Benoît (Bruno) Courrèges, devoted friend, cuisinier extraordinaire and the town's only municipal policeman, rushes to the scene when a research station for genetically modified crops is burned down outside Saint-Denis. Bruno immediately suspects a group of fervent environmentalists who live nearby, but the fire is only the first in a string of mysteries centering on the region's fertile soil.

Then a bevy of winemakers descends on Saint-Denis, competing for its land and spurring resentment among the villagers. Romances blossom. Hearts are broken. Some of the sensual pleasures of the town--a dinner of a truffle omelette and grilled bécasses, a community grape-crushing--provide an opportunity for both warm friendship and bitter hostilities to form. The town's rivals--Max, an environmentalist who hopes to make organic wine; Jacqueline, a flirtatious, newly arrived Quebecoise; and Fernando, the heir to an American wine fortune--act increasingly erratically. Events grow ever darker, culminating in two suspicious deaths, and Bruno finds that the problems of the present are never far from those of the past.

A splendid mystery, and a delectable serving of the pleasures of France.

My Review: The Doubleday UK meme, a book a day for July 2014, is the goad I'm using to get through my snit-based unwritten reviews. Today's prompt is to discuss your favorite novel involving food.

Well now.

I haven't read any new Montalbano novels this year, but Martin Walker certainly dials up the yum-yum in this book! He centers the plot on discovering the identity of who wanted the GMOs on the secret hilltop farm in Saint-Denis burned, and why. As always with Bruno's adventures, we're treated to a bit of utterly drool-worthy wine and food talk, plus Bruno's cheery, simple sex life (only slightly sarcastic there).

I love that the series, even though it's dealing with the arson of a state-secret agricultural research station, and the murder of a local young man-about-town, also takes into account the murder of a resident's dearly beloved dog, the breaking of a two-thousand-euro bottle of wine (treated as a crime, as well it should be!), and the discreet arrangements between a devoted husband and his paralyzed wife.

You know, Life.

And in the end, when the killer is revealed, and the family secrets that no one wanted aired come to Bruno's attention and Right is finally done, what happens? Dinner, no a feast!, is planned, with bécasses (woodcocks) accompanied by some of the world's most exquisite wines...possibly even a 1975 Pétrus *fantods*, one of the greatest Bordeaux wine vintages ever. After all, what could be more apropos, since Bruno is celebrating a new love entering his life....

Oh dear, mustn't spoil the very welcome and long overdue surprise!

I love the experience of reading these books, I enjoy Bruno's delivery of comeupance to the damnfool ambition-poisoned gendarme Duroc, I absolutely dote on his dog Gigi, and I can't wait to see what happens with the new vineyard in town that Bruno owns part of! the entire cast of crazies that Walker has created to bring Saint-Denis to life.

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