Summary: An arson on a remote (and illegal) genetically modified research farm leads to a crisis. And it might be related to a potential new investment by a large winemaker. Bruno as chief of police and lover of his small town seeks to preserve the community.
Martin Walker has created a small French village and a cast of characters that feel to me like a French version of Wendell Berry’s fiction, but with a modern thriller twist.
The Dark Vineyard is the second in the series and included all that I loved about the first. It is as much about the setting and the long descriptions of life in the French countryside as it is about the mystery. And that is what most of the complaints are about in the Amazon reviews.
This is not a fast book. But it is a delicious one, both in literary description and its description of all of the food and wine consumed. It is a book that seems to have been written with the slow food movement in mind.
Christians followers of the ‘slow church’ movement or those that are rediscovering the parish concept might also enjoy this series as an illustration of the value of slowing down and valuing the local.
Bruno, as chief of police, and only policeman locally employed, is more interested in what is best for the community than the letter of the law. He would rather mediate between people than arrest anyone. And so he teaches children how to play tennis and young men how to play rugby. He is the head of the local athletic programs and always attend the community markets and celebrations.
When a rich American winemaker tries to quietly buy up a lot of land and move a large operation into the area, Bruno is far less interested in the potential jobs and economic development than how it might change the character of the community.
And as someone that has grown to love the community in his 10 years there, he finds it hard to believe that anyone that he loves could be an arsonist. But he has a job to do and he will do what it takes to bring about his understanding of justice.
I don’t want to over play the slowness, because at heart this is a thriller/mystery, but the enjoyment of both of the first two books has been the community and description more than the driving of the plot for me. And I also want to note that this is not really a cozy mystery series either. The first was concerned with a mutilated tortured body. And this one, while less violent, still has a gritty realism to it. It is not violent for violence’s sake, but rather it is set in a world that for all of its beauty and community, still is made up of people that are broken and sinners.
Both of these first two books I listened to as audiobooks. But the third I have picked up on kindle to read. The narrator does an excellent job matching the pace of the book, although he may be a little too much English grandfather. If you like audiobooks these are well done.