As do all the books about the amazing Bruno, this book has a well-crafted plot full of suspense and drama and coincidences (but not too many to stay believable). It has a bit of romance: Bruno and his lover the much more successful officer Isabella, who has a high placed position in Paris, still find any imaginable future to be unattainable. It has lots of love for dogs and horses and riding in the splendid French countryside, and lots of interaction with the local inhabitants.
Above all, The Shooting at Château Rock has delightful descriptions of purchasing, cooking, and savoring the foods of Bruno's region, the Périgord and the amazing produce of his idyllic town St. Denis. Idyllic, that is, except for the unusually high rate of murders and international intrigues, but that's what you pay for being in such wonderful books, isn't it?
A full review of the plot and so on seems silly to me. If you love Bruno, you will read it. If you don't know this series of novels, but have any taste for mystery stories at all, you should read all of them. It's the food writing that really stands out -- when Bruno cooks, you could almost follow his recipe. Well, you could follow the recipe if you could obtain the remarkable fresh local French ingredients! Like this:
"Bruno had brought Pamela a dozen eggs from his chickens when he arrived to exercise the horses, and Miranda had hard-boiled them before rounding up the children for their bath. In the kitchen Bruno peeled the eggs, cut them in half and spooned out the solidified yolks. He chopped some allumettes, thin strips of smoked bacon, and fried them in their own fat while Pamela passed him some mayonnaise she’d made. He used a fork to crumble the hard egg yolks, added salt and pepper and two spoonfuls of Dijon mustard and then stirred in the bacon bits and the mayonnaise before spooning portions, the size of walnuts, into the halved egg whites. He set them out on a large plate and sprinkled a small amount of paprika onto the oeufs mimosa before taking them out to the terrace and putting the dish in the center of the table. He draped a dishcloth over the bowl to keep away any flies." (Kindle Locations 554-560).I love the way the characters in the novel play a role when Bruno cooks. It's also delightful when he eats in a restaurant, and the owner and his employees are a vital part of the description of the food, including their background and how they became familiar with the recipe and the ingredients. Here's a very long passage where Bruno's relationships with the local village people are involved with the choices he makes for a delectable meal:
"Bruno always took his cooking seriously, but the Monday night dinners for his friends at the riding school were special. Sometimes he wondered whether the rotation of the role of chef brought out in him some spirit of competition to outdo the others. This time he planned to begin with fresh asparagus from his garden, then follow with a dish he’d encountered at the home of Momu, the math teacher at the local collège. Despite his Algerian heritage, Momu was more French than most people Bruno knew, reading Le Monde every day and always being the first in St. Denis to read the Prix Goncourt winner’s book. Although Momu and his family usually ate French food, he was proud of his Middle Eastern heritage. The dish he’d shared with Bruno was a classic— lamb shanks with walnuts and pomegranate. Momu said he had learned how to make it at his mother’s knee, and Bruno had found it delicious and tantalizingly different.
"Bruno had started on Saturday grinding together the spices with his pestle and mortar. He had then mixed together in a bowl one and a half teaspoons of ground cinnamon, the same amount of ground turmeric, a teaspoon of ground cumin and half a teaspoon of ground cardamom. The spices were then rubbed into three kilos of trimmed lamb shanks, one for each of the eight adults at dinner with small ones for the children. He left the spiced meat in his fridge for the rest of the day. After his return from the retirement home on Sunday, Bruno had browned the shanks in olive oil over a medium-high heat, drained them on absorbent paper and cleaned the pan. Then he began gently to fry three thinly sliced onions, adding salt and freshly ground black pepper, until they were soft and transparent.
"Next he added six sprigs of thyme, six crushed garlic cloves, three wide strips of lemon zest and two bay leaves, stirring everything into the onions for two minutes. He sprinkled into this two tablespoons of all-purpose flour and stirred until all the flour was absorbed. Then came a large glass of Bergerac red. He brought the dish to a simmer and stirred until it thickened. Then he slowly poured in a liter of chicken stock, a quarter liter of pomegranate juice and half that amount of pomegranate molasses that Momu had said he would find in the local health-food shop. Bruno let it all simmer for five minutes. He arranged the lamb shanks in a deep roasting pan and poured the onion, stock and pomegranate mixture over them to reach three-quarters of the way up each shank. He covered the pan with foil and put it in the oven, turning the shanks occasionally, for an hour and forty minutes, until the meat was almost falling off the bone. He removed the pan from the oven and let it cool. He ran the braising liquid through a sieve into a saucepan and added a quarter kilo of shelled walnuts before simmering the liquid over medium-high heat until it had been reduced by a third. He tasted it and added a little more ground pepper. Were he serving it that day, he’d have arranged the lamb on a warm platter and then spooned the walnuts and sauce over the shanks. But Bruno knew from Momu that lamb improves if braised a day ahead, and it also makes it easier to skim off the fat. So he left it overnight, planning to take the dish to Pamela’s the next day for supper." (Kindle Locations 1674-1698).This passage continues as Bruno creates a fantasy dessert of cherries in a cloud of cream. Another scene in the book involves making a vast quantity of gazpacho. Or an evening when he creates a mouth-watering dinner of chicken in fresh tarragon sauce. Bruno's garden always has some remarkable produce, the town market offers still more choices, and his larder always contains home-made duck stock, local truffles or fois gras, a selection of rare wines, and other amazing and expensive materials.
It's very sad that the cookbook that Walker wrote has been published only in German, not in English, and that he's about to publish a second one, also in German, which for some reason can't find an English language publisher either. We can only hope for a future edition of this book in English! (I wrote about the first Bruno cookbook here: https://maefood.blogspot.com/2017/09/brunos-cookbook.html )
This review © 2020 by mae sander for mae food dot blog spot dot com.
I need to get a kindle version! What's the name of that cookbook in German?
Wish I had the time for reading books again...
Instead I'm working hard on our own book. A complex book with lots of tables and figures and lots of text. One day I can put that behind me too!
I have yet to read any of the books in this series. I must -- the writing style is fun, and the characters sound so interesting. Good review -- thanks.
Oh, boy, those eggs. We have a name for them, but I can´t recall as I´m way too lazy for so much efford ;-)
@Angie: I added a link to my blog post about Brunos Kochbuch.
@Iris: Gefüllte Eier in German.
As soon as I read this post, I went to the library website to find the e-book. I had to place a hold and I’m 7th in line. 😊
I love reading about Bruno’s cooking.
Oh wow, I never heard of deviled eggs sounding so romantic. Incredible. I can see why you like that series.
This sounds so good :)
All the best Jan
I love mystery stories, so I looked up Martin Walker. He seems to be very popular in Germany, I even found a very short film about him and that cookbook. I put the first Bruno on my list - thanks for the recommendation.
I just put this book on hold at my local library. It sounds delicious! (pun intended)
I'm salivating over the lamb shanks. I've only just woken up and I'm ready for that meal. Next time I need kindle books I will download these. Thanks for the recommendation Mae.
yum i want to eat those oeufs mimosa. they sound delish!
I love a good mystery and so I guess I need to check this series out. I haven't read any of these. Thanks for the recommendation. Hugs-Erika
I've only read a couple of these and I loved them. I need to start the series (though I just started Donna Leon and Elly Griffiths' books -- will I live so long?!) You are right about Walker's descriptions of food. They are remarkable, so well written. Do you prefer Bruno or Brunetti?
Love Bruno, Cheif of Police series, can't wait to read this one.
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