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Excerpts from Bruno series

Just to give you the flavor of the material and whet your appetite, here are a couple of excerpts from one of the books Crowded Grave :


Character Development


He introduced Fabiola to the group around the trench, marking the way their eyes first noted and then carefully avoided the long scar on Fabiola’s cheek, the legacy of a mountaineering accident. Bruno was no longer aware of it and Fabiola simply ignored it. Her dress and demeanour boldly asserted that this was a self-confident and attractive woman who knew her own worth.

Fabiola is the new doctor, the wounded healer, whose own story will intersect with a later case, but is here in her role as expert. (p. 24)


Interactive Plot Dynamics

The balance in the community that Bruno maintains can be illustrated in another episode from the same book. I’m going to quote at length to give you a bit of a feel for the dynamics of the interactions.

Introduction of the new Magistrate

(JJ is speaking): ‘Call me when you are done and we can have lunch and I can tell you about the new nightmare that’s coming into your life. Her name is Annette Meraillon and she came top of her class at the magistrates’ school in Bordeaux last year. She’s right up your street. She’s a vegetarian feminist and she spent her last summer vacation in Paris working for some rights group for Muslim women. She’s just been assigned to the sub-Prefecture at Sarlat, which means she’ll be your new magistrate.’

‘A vegetarian magistrate for St. Denis? They must be mad. What does she think about hunting?’

‘She’s against it. She wants all guns out of private hands. Unless they’re Muslim women, I suppose. Remember that young inspector of mine in Bergerac, Jofflin? He met her doing a course at law school and said she didn’t even drink. Not a glass. And she’s going to hate foie gras, even yours. You’re in for a fun time with this one, Bruno.’

Now if you haven’t been sufficiently alerted by the events preceding this announcement:

– an attack by PETA on a farm raising geese
– Bruno’s being summoned to the Brigadier with a request to provide his foie gras and an appropriate wine for a visiting dignitary

and by your general knowledge of the centrality of these components to life in St. Denis, the author underlines these in a reminiscence, contrasting the new magistrate with her predecessor:

Bruno had so far been lucky, since  the main magistrate for St. Denis and the neighbouring communes had been for the past decade and more a genial fellow, a keen hunter and former chairman of the rugby federation for the Department of Dordogne.

He continues that he was also a member of the jury on wine tasting and elaborates on the fine meals associated with those events.

Bruno could hardly imagine a more appropriate principal judicial officer for the region that saw itself as the gastronomic heartland of France. This new woman sounded as if she’d be much less accommodating.

So watch how he deals with it. First she summons him to a meeting with an undue urgency (the murder victim is already a skeleton and that had already been removed from the scene by the forensic team.)

A small blue Peugeot circled too fast around the roundabout. It beeped its horn to deter a mother with two children in a pushchair from setting forth on the pedestrian crossing before parking with a jerk across two of the marked spaces in front of the Mairie. The front bumper stopped within a hand’s breadth of Bruno’s leg. The young woman at the wheel, clad in a grey woolen suit, threw him a swift glance and then began collecting papers from a briefcase on the passenger seat. From down the street, he heard a siren. The Peugeot was freshly washed but far from new, with dents in the bumper and scratches on the rear wings, and the wide tyres he’d only previously seen on cars used for rallying.

Bruno tapped on her window. ‘Your papers, please, Mademoiselle.’

She turned from her briefcase and looked at him coldly. The sound of the approaching siren grew and a blue Gendarmerie van came into view, Sergeant Jules at the wheel.

‘You’re Courrèges, the village policeman, right?’

‘Correct. You are illegally parked and about to receive a citation for failing to stop for a pedestrian crossing.’ he said.

And so the scene escalates: Jules has clocked her at 78 in a 30 zone; Florence with her twins comes up, a furious witness; they figure that makes 4 points off her license, which a law abiding magistrate would have to agree was justified. By the end of the confrontation she has apologized, admitted her guilt, been consoled in her nervousness and been warned off with reduction of both charges, but still with two citations! and they are all on a first name basis.

But it doesn’t end there, at the site of the investigation Bruno uses a bystander to provide information contrary to the viewpoints of both the student (and probable originator of the unrelated crime of letting the geese out into traffic) and the magistrate that they are uninformed with regard to the natural propensity of geese to overeat in preparation for the winter flight. He’s gradually making her an ally, integrating her into the system, inviting her to an evening lecture and suggesting she make friends with the single mother teacher Florence, who are both new to the area.

This episode concludes as follows:

They were walking side by side, amiably enough, although there was a sharper tone in her voice. But she seemed ready to listen. Bruno was reminded of times in the army when a new officer had come to take over the squad. It was always Bruno’s job as sergeant to educate him, buff away the officer-school polish and teach him how to make forty tough young soldiers obey their orders cheerfuly. He wondered whether Annette would be amenable to some gentle coaching, after making such a disastrous entry into St. Denis. He’d have to try. Nobody would benefit from a constant tension between town and magistrate.

And don’t worry, I haven’t spoiled the segment for you – there is much more happening simultaneously.

But why do I include these books here, in a website ostensibly devoted to interfaith communication? The skills of creating a community out of diversity, manifest in these novels, are exactly the skills and playfulness we will need in creating an interfaith dialogue.

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