As an introduction to Martin Walker’s novels set in the Dordogne and his fictional protagonist Bruno, former soldier, Chef de Police, gourmet cook, wine aficionado, philanderer, string-puller and perhaps the most kind-hearted flic in France, you could do no better than start with this short story.
As in his full-length novels, Walker introduces aspects of the region which are unlikely to be known to the casual visitor. In this Christmas tale it is the, possibly relatively recent, tradition of Père Noël’s companion Père Fouettard (the Whipper) who chastises naughty children whilst Père Noël rewards the children who have been good.
Perhaps of even more interest than the delightful story itself is the appended guide to the region “A perfect week in Perigord”. Walker offers advice on when to visit, how to travel, where to stay or dine, what to see, do, eat or drink and whom to observe. He omits only the “why” of the English interrogative pronouns because, having read more of Bruno’s adventures, you will be able, with no hesitation whatsoever, to answer that question for yourself.
Both the short story and the guide are thoroughly recommended.