The Templars' Last Secret by Martin Walker
A Bruno, Chief of Police novel (Bruno, Chief of Police Series)

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Martin Walker’s harried but likable chief of police is an endearing character and those fortunate enough to read this novel will undoubtedly search for other Bruno stories.
-NY Journal of Books


When a woman’s body is found at the foot of a cliff near the idyllic French town of St. Denis, chief of police Bruno Courrèges suspects a connection to the great ruin that stands above: a long-ago Knights Templar stronghold. With the help of Amélie, a young newcomer to the Dordogne, Bruno learns that the dead woman was an archaeologist searching for a religious artifact of incredible importance. And her ties to Islamic terrorists—not to mention the return of an old flame of Bruno’s, who is assigned to work with him on the case—only heightens the pressure to unravel the centuries-old mystery. As Bruno works to connect the tangled threads of past and present, he nonetheless finds time, naturellement, to enjoy the wine, food, and beauty of the Périgord region.

About Martin Walker

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Chapter 1 Bruno Courr ges, chief of police of the small French town of St. Denis, awoke a few seconds before six, just as the dawn was breaking. His cockerel, Blanco, named for a French rugby hero, greeted the new day as Bruno donned his tracksuit and running shoes. The morning jog through the springtime woods around his home in the P rigord countryside was a delight as the sun cast long beams through the pale green of the new buds and leaves on the trees. The temperature was exactly as he liked it, not cold enough for gloves but crisp and fresh enough for him to enjoy warming up as he ran, his basset hound, Balzac, bounding along at his side. Back at his home, its old stone walls glowing in the early light, Bruno fed his geese and chickens, watered his vegetable garden and took a look at the seedlings in the new greenhouse he had built from a kit. He placed his kettle on the stove for coffee and put one of his fresh eggs into a saucepan to boil while he checked his e--mails, then turned on the radio, tuned to France Bleu P rigord. He grilled the last half of yesterday''s baguette, shared it with Balzac and sliced his toast thin so he could dip it into the egg yolk. The national radio news ended and shifted to the local news. At the third item, Bruno pricked up his ears. P rigueux psychologist Marie--France Duteiller has filed a complaint with the procureur on the slow progress of the investigation into allegations of pedophilia at a church--run children''s home near Mussidan some thirty years ago. She claims that the inquiry led by Chief Detective Jean--Jacques Jalipeau has been "insensitive and dilatory" and has denied justice to the victims who accused several local notables of abuse when they were orphans at the home. Commissaire Ja-li-peau said last night that inquiries continued, although the investigation was highly complex and controversial, since the allegations depended on memories that had been recovered during hypnosis by psychologist Duteiller. His good mood of the morning evaporated as Bruno sighed in sympathy with his friend Jean--Jacques, known throughout the police as J--J. The investigation had been under way for months and evidently was not getting very far. This was unusual. Bruno might agree that at times J--J could be insensitive, but "dilatory" was one of the last words he''d use to describe the big, untidy man whom he''d come to admire on the occasions they had worked together. Such cases usually ended with a celebratory dinner, at which J--J played generous host, in recognition of the many times during the inquiry when he had lunched and dined at Bruno''s table. J--J''s cheerful personality matched his bulk, and he shared Bruno''s fondness for good food and wine. Their warm relations had even survived a waspish newspaper cartoon after one recent terrorist case when Bruno had been portrayed as Ast rix the Gaul and J--J as his gigantic and overfed friend Ob lix. The cartoonist had come closer to reality when he portrayed each of them with a bottle of Bergerac wine, suggesting it was their equivalent of the magic potion Ast rix swigged before battling the Roman legions. Above all, and unlike many in the Police Nationale, J--J did not treat a municipal policeman like Bruno as a lower form of life. He''d come to value Bruno''s profound knowledge of the people of the commune of St. Denis, developed in part through years as an active member of the local tennis, rugby and hunting clubs. He accepted Bruno''s idiosyncratic way of doing his job and recognized Bruno''s role in ensuring that St. Denis had the lowest rate of reported crimes in the d partement of the Dordogne. Bruno in return respected J--J as a relentless detective with a deceptively subtle way of navigating the politics of policing in France. Whatever the radio might be reporting, J--J was old enough and experienced enough to take care of himself. If he needed Bruno''s help, he knew he would only have to ask. Bruno planned this morning to go first to the riding school of his British friend Pamela to exercise his horse, Hector, before heading for his office in the mairie. Perhaps on horseback he''d get some inspiration for a speech he had to give at a wedding at the end of the week. And perhaps I should think about getting some new clothes, Bruno thought as he scanned his wardrobe with the forthcoming event in mind. Two--thirds of the hanging space was occupied by his official dress. There were police uniforms for summer and for winter, plus a full--dress parade uniform and an overcoat. At the back of the cupboard was a separate plastic bag holding his French army reserve uniform with its sergeant''s chevrons, in which he was required to report if summoned back to duty. Hanging in the utility room, where he kept the washing machine and the secure cabinet with his guns, were a set of military camouflage that he used for hunting and the old army tracksuit he had just taken off to air after his morning jog. Bruno had few civilian clothes. There was a dark blue wool suit he''d bought when invalided out of the French army after taking a sniper''s bullet in his hip during a tour of duty in Bosnia. He''d long since lost the extra kilos he''d gained during his months--long hospital stay and while convalescing, so it hung loosely on him these days. A dark blue blazer and a pair of gray slacks shared a wooden coat hanger. Khaki chinos hung with the dark red jacket that he wore over his uniform shirt and trousers when he wanted to look plausibly civilian. Its equivalent in black was kept in his official van. A pair of jeans was folded on the top shelf with his polo shirts, sweaters, his police k pis and a blue UN peacekeepers'' helmet that he kept for sentimental reasons, despite its dents and scrapes. Anyone could take one glance at my wardrobe, he mused, and tell the story of my life: the army and then the police, all the signs of a man more at home in uniform than in civilian dress. His modest collection of clothes suggested a man who was careful with his money, seeing no need to spend much on new garments when the French services took care of most of his needs. His dark suit was timeless, of a classic cut, paying no regard to the whims of fashion that dictated that this year trousers should be tight and ties and lapels narrow. He knew this was a sparse wardrobe, even for a country policeman. I am a man, he thought, of little imagination and less sty≤ or perhaps I simply have other priorities. Bruno disliked shopping for clothes, although he could spend many hours happily perusing hunting magazines for a new shotgun that he could not afford or a new rod for when he went fishing with the baron. The good thing about weddings, he thought, was that people usually had eyes only for the bride. Nobody would care what he was weÅ the dark blue suit would do fine. The ceremony was to take place in the mairie, followed by a reception and dinner for close friends at the National Museum of Prehistory in Les Eyzies. The gallery of flints, with its life--size models of early humans wearing skins and holding spears, might be considered an unusual place to choose. Bruno thought it very suitable, since bride and groom were professional archaeologists of renown. Clothilde, the bride, was the museum''s senior curator, and her husband--to--be, Horst, after retiring from his university post in Germany, had joined the museum as an adjunct professor responsible for archaeological digs. Most of the guests were in the same profession. Idly, Bruno wondered if they might offer the fashionable Paleolithic diet of nuts and berries, fruit and charred meats, instead of the more traditional wedding feast. No, he concluded. Horst might be amused by such a meal, but Clothilde was a sensible Frenchwoman---she would understand that when guests came to the culinary heartland of France, they expected the classic food of the P rigord. As Horst''s best man, Bruno was a little nervous about the speech he''d have to give. He would obviously be expected to make some reference to his friend''s distinguished career in archaeology, before an audience that would include some of Europe''s top experts in the field. On Bruno''s bedside table lay the latest issue of Arch ologie, a popular magazine that contained Professor Horst Vogelstern''s latest article, comparing the various small statues of women that had been found at prehistoric sites across Europe. Long before he had become Horst''s friend, Bruno had sub- scribed to the journal, fascinated by the wealth of cave art and prehistory that surrounded him in the valley of the River V z re. The cover of the magazine was arresting, a photograph of a woman fashioned from clay with gigantic hips, a prominent vulva and pendulous breasts. The caption was "Miss Europa, 25,000 b.c." This Venus of Doln Věstonice, the place where she had been found in the modern--day Czech Republic, was the oldest ceramic known. It was just one of several illustrations accompanying Horst''s fascinating piece. Bruno had been intrigued to learn that just over a hundred of these statues, known as the Venus figurines, had been found. They had mostly been made between 28,000 and 20,000 b.c., in the early Paleolithic or Stone Age, and had emerged in caves and graves scattered from Spain through France and Germany to Siberia and south through Italy and the Balkans to Syria and Israel. If there was one outstanding element that could be said to have connected our direct ancestors among early Stone Age pe
Published June 13, 2017 by Vintage. 316 pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Crime, Travel. Fiction
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Above average
on Apr 18 2017

Just the thing for readers hungry for a banquet of epicurean pleasures, ancient history, international terrorism, and holy matrimony. More timid souls who crave a less incongruous mix may want to wait till next year.

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NY Journal of Books

Reviewed by Toni V. Sweeney on Jun 12 2017

Martin Walker’s harried but likable chief of police is an endearing character and those fortunate enough to read this novel will undoubtedly search for other Bruno stories.

Read Full Review of The Templars' Last Secret: A ... | See more reviews from NY Journal of Books

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