Chief of Police Bruno Courrèges is feeling broody. He has recently remodeled and expanded the size of his house after a fire damaged it, and now he would like to add a wife and children to fill up all that empty space. Unfortunately, both of the women with whom he is currently sexually involved are not interested in marriage or children. One is married to her career and is focused on getting ahead in it. The other is an independent woman who wishes to stay that way. As far as their relationships with Bruno are concerned, they are only in it for the sex and the companionship.
And then there is Bruno's boss, the mayor of the little village of St. Denis. His wife is currently in the hospital, dying of lymphatic cancer, but that doesn't stop the mayor from auditioning a replacement for her. In this case, it is an attractive writer/professor/historian who is currently writing a book about the World War II period in France, a period when the French government surrendered and formed the Vichy administration. The French people, however, never surrendered; they kept fighting by whatever means they could find. One center of their resistance was the Perigord region, where St. Denis is located. Those who fought in the Resistance are still honored and considered great heroes there.
Time and age have already taken most of them, of course, and now one more has died. A veteran named Murcoing has died in his home and Bruno is notified. The death appears natural, not suspicious in any way, but, in time, events surrounding it become connected to a series of burglaries in the area. Someone is burglarizing vacation homes while the occupants are away and stealing valuable antiques and other belongings. It begins to appear as though Murcoing's beloved grandson Paul may be involved in those burglaries.
Things take a more serious turn when an antiques dealer is murdered and Bruno suspects that this is connected to the burglaries. The situation becomes even more tangled when Bruno realizes that the victim, who was a homosexual, was one of the victims in a gay bashing case that he investigated several years earlier and it seems that Paul may have been another of the victims. The case was never satisfactorily resolved and continues to nag at Bruno.
The French judicial system works inexorably to solve the entangled cases and bring the perpetrators to justice, and Bruno, as usual, while performing his investigatory duties also finds time to socialize with his friends, play with his Basset puppy Balzac, ride his horse Hector, feed his chickens and his two geese Josephine and Napoleon, and cook and serve gourmet meals from his garden and his surrounding land. The great charm of this series is really the descriptions of the countryside and the laid-back lifestyle of Bruno and the other residents of St. Denis. I can feel the pounds packing on just reading about all this wonderful food and wine, and it's almost as if I've taken a vacation among the sights of the Dordogne.
At the same time, the book, which was published in 2013, also manages to educate us a bit about the history of the region and to include social commentary that seems particularly relevant to our times. I think we could take some important lessons from the Resistance men and women of France. Perhaps the most important lesson is "Never surrender!"
My rating: 4 of 5 stars