Wednesday, September 08, 2021

The Coldest Case by Martin Walker

First Line: The three skulls transfixed him.
While attending an exhibit on the facial reconstruction of ancient skulls, Bruno Courrèges is reminded of a thirty-year-old cold case that his boss, Chief of Detectives Jalipeau ("J-J"), has sworn to solve, but Bruno soon learns that identifying the victim is just the tip of the iceberg.

The trail leads to a reclusive vintner, Henri Bazaine, whose childhood education in a vocational school in a well-known formerly Communist area of Paris raises some eyebrows. Further investigation into the school uncovers rumors of possible connections and funding to the Stasi, the old secret police of East Germany. The case heats up when it's learned that Bazaine was declared dead thirty years ago and has been living under an assumed name ever since. 

To make matters even worse, Paris bureaucrats get involved, and the investigation is hampered by the wildfires burgeoning all over the drought-stricken Dordogne. Bruno certainly has his work cut out for him.


If you ever find yourself in need of a pleasant escape into a mystery filled with good people, good food, and good wine, the only place you should head to is southwest France in Martin Walker's Bruno Chief of Police mysteries. In this series, friendship, food, wine, history, and culture are every bit as important as the mystery, which-- in the case of The Coldest Case-- is a very interesting one indeed. I enjoyed watching how facial reconstruction put new life into an old investigation and how trying to identify a killer led to the shadowy doings of the Stasi. Readers can count on Walker to put history into context in this modern world. I know he's certainly given me a better understanding of Europe in general and France in particular.

Living in Arizona as I do and having seen over a million acres of forest consumed by fire (it's not all rocks and sand here, folks), I took particular interest in how Bruno and other officials prepared for fighting wildfires. How they could evacuate residents. Safe places they could stay. Getting those places ready. Evacuation routes. And on and on. These preparations take a lot of planning and a lot of people to carry those plans out. Walker not only brings readers right into the middle of these preparations, but he also has them coughing from the smoke and hearing the crackling of the flames.

But no Bruno mystery is ever complete without the camaraderie to be found at a table filled with mouth-watering food and wine. As an added bonus, Bruno's beloved Basset hound Balzac is now a father-- there are puppies!

Although Bruno is beginning to give up hope that he will ever find the right woman so he can have a family of his own, I haven't yet-- although I do wonder if a wife and children will hamper Bruno's investigative skills... or enhance them. If you're a newcomer to these Bruno mysteries, you could read The Coldest Case as a standalone, but I really wouldn't advise it. You would be missing out on all the wonderful things this series has to offer. Vive Bruno!

The Coldest Case by Martin Walker
ISBN: 9780525656678
Alfred A. Knopf © 2021
Hardcover, 336 pages
Police Procedural, #14 Bruno Chief of Police
Rating: B+
Source: Purchased from The Poisoned Pen Bookstore.


  1. This is such a great series, isn't it, Cathy? I really do like the cast of characters, as you say. I also love the way Walker depicts the area, the local culture, the food, etc.. To me, he always conveys the setting and context so well. Glad you enjoyed this one.

  2. I haven't read a Bruno in a long time. Thanks for the reminder. :)

  3. I read all of this series up through The Body in the Castle Well at which point I sort of went off them. They all began to seem the same to me. But it might be time to give them another chance.

    1. Dorothy, I hit a bit of a wall with him probably around book eight. Maybe a little later. All the plots were the same, Bruno was always mentally whinging about his lack of a mate, yada yada yada. I have to say that he's changed it up a little bit. Not much, but enough for it to make a difference to me. I've also come to the conclusion that I can use this series as "comfort reads"-- books for when I want to sink into the familiar. Besides, I love all the French ambiance.

  4. I enjoyed this one also - such a lovely virtual visit to France.

    1. He makes me feel as though I'm there. I even start thinking with a French accent! LOL


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