The Dark Vineyard

The Dark Vineyard

by Martin Walker

Arlene Almas (02/04/13): Many of us are familiar with, and love, crime novels: American, British, even Scandinavian. Hereís a category I hadnít read before: a French mystery! Itís "The Dark Vineyard", by Martin Walker, part of a series featuring Bruno Courrege, the only municipal policeman in the little village of Saint-Denis. Located in a region of France famous for its vineyards, which thrive in the fertile soil, Saint-Denis has been Brunoís home for many years, and he counts most of the villagers as his close friends. When a fire and explosion occur at a small experimental farm run by a research station, Bruno is drawn into a chain of mysteries. Initially, it appears to be the work of hard-line environmentalists opposed to the development of genetically modified crops, but that is only the beginning of a narrative encompassing the efforts of a large American wine company to buy up land around Saint-Denis, and the rivalry between a young member of an organic farming commune and the son of the wine companyís owner for the heart of a young woman from Quebec whose family is also in the wine business. There is much to liven up the story besides Brunoís investigations: mouth-watering descriptions of meals (including a marvelous dinner cooked by Bruno), sensuous depictions of community grape-crushing (yes, people stomping around in the vats!), and romances of Brunoís own. The writing is clear and contemporary, and the ending unexpected. I intend to look for other books in the series, and recommend The Dark Vineyard to both mystery lovers and readers who would enjoy discovering the culture of French wine and food.
Rating: *****

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