The Body in the Castle Well by Martin Walker: A review

After reading a long and challenging book, I needed a quick and easy read so I turned to Martin Walker's Bruno, Chief of Police series. I generally enjoy these visits to the Perigord region of France with all the references to French history and the landscape of the region, plus, of course, the descriptions of all the delicious meals that Bruno cooks for his friends. But Walker lost me early on in this one and I was so irritated that I found myself nitpicking my way through the book. And I found a lot of nits to pick.

It was all because of the cat.

Claudia, a young American art student, is in the area to work with an aging art scholar who has a fabulous collection of paintings. In researching the paintings and their provenance, Claudia comes to suspect that some of the paintings have been falsely attributed by the scholar. 

And then Claudia ends up dead in a well.

Her body is found in the water at the bottom of the well and standing on top of her body is a kitten. Claudia was a cat lover - in a community that only seems to like dogs - and the initial speculation is that she was trying to rescue the kitten and fell into the well and drowned. The first inspection of the scene seems to bear that out.

The rescuer goes down the well and brings out the body and the kitten. He essentially tosses the kitten onto the ground and, of all the people present at the scene, no one picks the little creature up to dry it off and warm it after being in the cold well. As a cat lover myself, that pissed me off and put me in a bad mood for the rest of the book.

But after that, the investigation of the death just seems haphazard and only an excuse for bringing various characters back to St. Denis. Because you see, Claudia was from a rich and politically connected family, close to the "wayward" person in the White House and so the American ambassador gets involved and Claudia's mother comes to town to find out what's going on with the investigation and to claim her daughter's body. Soon, officials of the national police are also showing up to direct the inquiry.

Meanwhile, Bruno rides his horse Hector, plays with his cheerful basset hound's ears, feeds his chickens and ducks, gathers his gourmet vegetables from his garden, and cooks fabulous meals for his friends. Oh, and he resumes his affair with the luscious Pamela after she invites him back into her bed because he's just so irresistible. But, of course, he's still in love with Isabelle, who puts in a brief appearance just at the thoroughly complicated and unbelievable ending. And he finally seems to be noticing his neighbor Florence, who of all the women in his life seems the only one who could reasonably be a life partner. But even if he had a life partner, no doubt he would continue his affairs. C'est la vie!  

This was just a rehash of every plot in this series. As always, there was a World War II and Resistance connection. (Walker really needs to move on to another era of history.) There was just nothing especially new or particularly interesting here. Maybe the author needs to give Bruno a rest for a while.

Come to think of it, I probably need to give Bruno a rest.

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Comments

  1. I think your score of only two probably means that you WILL give Bruno a rest!

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    1. That's my plan. There are too many good and interesting books out there to spend time with something one doesn't enjoy.

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  2. Apparently some very long running series stay imaginative and entertaining. However, after a lot of books. I can see an author can run out of ideas and become stale. Too bad that sounds like the case here.

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    1. I've read a lot of series over the years and I have experienced this before. Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum comes to mind, in which the characters never changed, never grew, were always stereotypes. I had to give up on that one, too.

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  3. Oh no too bad for Bruno. Might need a break. I have trouble when animals are mistreated in books ... and no one in the story cares. Ugh!

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    1. I don't like it either but I can possibly tolerate it if it serves some purpose in the plot, but this was just casual, offhand cruelty which no one remarked upon. It was as if this is the normal way people behave in the Perigord.

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  4. This sounds like something that I will NOT read... I totally get the feeling when you're irritated and nitpicking, I had the same with my recent read After The Flood.
    At some point I just get annoyed with everything and everyone and the book ends up getting a low score.

    I believe a good start is half the work!

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    1. A good start is certainly important to keep the reader interested and reading.

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  5. Yeah it sounds like Bruno needs a rest and I will not be reading this one. I can't stand when author just rehash plots over and over with only little things changed here and there.

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    1. Perhaps if I had read this as a standalone it would have seemed fresh, but since I had read the previous books in the series, not so much.

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  6. It seems Bruno will have a long rest in your house!

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  7. Two out of five for Bruno? Oh my! Too bad the food and the scenery weren't enough, but it gets old, same hooks book after book.

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    1. Yeah, my love affair with Bruno has definitely cooled.

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