|Bruno Courreges is living what many might consider a dream life: he is the police chief of the small French town of St. Denis in the Perigord Region, for the most part a quiet town, allowing him to enjoy a life filled with good food, his dog Gigi, and the company of Pamela. Living in foie gras country, the locals are used to the hordes of geese on the local streets. PETA demonstrators, however, are causing a hubbub, staging demonstrations against local geese farmers and their practices, and are perhaps resorting to some vandalism.
A body is found at the site of an archaeological dig, one that is not of the period of the dig, only twenty years old and unidentified. This would be enough for the police chief without including the disappearance of the professor responsible for the dig and tensions that arise from a meeting between French and Spanish ministers, including a minister's car that explodes and Basque terrorists who are possibly responsible for the attack. With Pamela out of town to tend to her sick mother, Bruno thinks he can concentrate on the cases before him until his former girlfriend shows up in St. Denis to recover from some injuries.
Essentially a police procedural, The Crowded Grave also has the feel of a cozy because though Bruno has a lot on his plate, he always leaves time for a good meal and glass of wine. He is knowledgeable of, but steers clear of, the politics involved in the French and Spanish summit, allowing him to view the situations with an unjaundiced eye. Bruno also realizes how vital (and delicious) the geese farm industry is to the area and hopes that the PETA protesters will quickly move on to another cause.
The body in the archaeological site provide a more tangible, traditional investigation for Bruno, though it turns out to be anything but, as people aren't who they say they are and things that Bruno believes to be true turn out not to be. Bruno is a wonderful character who doesn't allow police business to interfere with living the good life. The Dordogne area of France provides a rich backdrop for any story, full of history, political strife and delicious delicacies.
A fast-paced ending leaves Bruno with an important part of his life missing, and missing something he never would have expected to find himself missing.
--Jennifer Monahan Winberry