The Patriarch by Martin Walker: A review

The patriarch of the title is a World War II French pilot hero, now 90 years old. He is honored in two countries, Russia, where he fought for a while with their air force, as well as France. He is a boyhood hero of Bruno Courreges, chief of police in the little town of St. Denis in the Perigord region of France, and Bruno is overwhelmed and delighted when he is invited to the icon's 90th birthday party.

At the party, he observes Gilbert, an old comrade-in-arms of the patriarch's son Victor and said to be Victor's best friend. Bruno is called away from the party on police business and later learns that Gilbert has been found dead. The verdict of his doctor who was at the party is that the man choked on his own vomit while intoxicated, but when Bruno saw him, he was not drunk and other witnesses state that he did not appear to be intoxicated. However, the death certificate has been signed by the doctor, and Victor, in the absence of any relative, arranges for the cremation of the body which is carried out as soon as the law allows. There will be no autopsy. 

Bruno is suspicious at all of this haste and the fact that his own observations did not lead him to think that Gilbert was drunk. But there is scant evidence for him to go on. And no body. If it was murder, how will he ever prove it?

This eighth entry in the Bruno, Chief of Police, series has little in the way of plot or character development. The mystery of Gilbert's death is foreshadowed throughout and the denouement is no surprise. Mostly, this is just a mouthwatering description of a series of meals served or attended by Bruno. We get details of the preparation of the various dishes, as well as accounts of the several wines served. The diners are invariably replete and sated. 

We also get the mandatory visits with Bruno's Basset hound Balzac and his horse Hector and his various friends around St. Denis. Moreover, the narrative harks back to the action in previous books in order to bring along readers who may not have read all the books in sequence.

It also has the mandatory afternoon of hot and heavy lovemaking with a beautiful woman which is an essential part of the Bruno persona. This particular beautiful woman, though, has her own reasons for seducing the susceptible policeman.

On the whole, this was a weak entry and not my favorite in the series, but it was an okay read. Worth it for the descriptions of the food, wine, and landscape of the Perigord.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


  1. It is a good thing you enjoyed the food, wine and landscape descriptions.

  2. Too bad this one wasn't as good as other entries. Still, you liked it.

    1. I always enjoy the descriptions of the meals and the landscape.


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