Saturday, January 26, 2019

Monsieur Pamplemousse (A Gastronomic Mystery #1)

Author: Michael Bond
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover: Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780825302671; 9780449209561
Fawcett Publishing
187 Pages
Various Prices
March 1, 1985


Monsieur Pamplemousse, formerly of the Sureté, now works for Le Guide, France's most prestigious culinary review.  Currently investigating the Hotel-Restaurant La Langoustine, Pamplemousse is considering giving it the supreme accolade, the coveted three Stock Pots.  Standing by (or, rather, sitting under the table) to help him judge is Pommes Frites, the restaurant reviewer's traveling companion, a canine with the tastes of a connòisseur.

But when the chef's chef d'oeuvre arrives at Pamplemousse's table, the platter, when uncovered, reveals not the expected, delicious Poularde de Bresse en Vessie Royale but an appallingly good likeness of a man's head.

And suddenly Pamplemousse finds his own head on the line and his own life very much at stake, in a wonderfully suspenseful mystery whose ingredients include an inflatable dog house, an overly amorous proprietress, a man without hands, a nun with a gun, and some excellent eating indeed.


Monsieur Pamplemousse is an ex-police officer who has found a new career as a restaurant reviewer.  While on an annual holiday to the Hotel La Langoustine, he is also combining business by deciding whether they deserve the coveted third Stock Pot.  While there, he sees an unusual couple, a striking blonde with a young man with claws for hands, and they aren't very nice to each other.

The woman is extremely upset that Pamplemousse won't give up his usual table to her, but he stands firm.  When he is served the chef's special dish, he doesn't expect that a man's head will be inside - not a real head, it is discovered, but a very good facsimile.  Now he wonders if someone is sending him a message, and why.

But to make things worse, the co-owner of the hotel, Madame Sophie, has set her sights on Pamplemousse as a sexual conquest.  Not wanting to receive her advances, he must find a way to put her off without offending her.  But there are also the series of small accidents - starting with someone who has cut through his balcony railing which could have killed him under the right circumstances.  So if he doesn't discover what's going on and soon, he may have to put an end to a delightfully delicious career...

Well, I really wanted to like this book.  I love mysteries, and while I've never read anything by this author before, I did have hopes.  But then again, one does usually think that when a book is labeled a mystery, there will be a dead body or two somewhere along the line.  In this instance, I was disappointed.  There is none.  There is not only no dead body, there is not much a mystery, either.

This book, it appears to me, was written to be some sort of farce of something - I haven't quite decided which - either of the mystery genre or something sexual.  For one thing, I don't understand why Madame Sophie can't tell the difference between a candlestick, plastic and a real person.  Methinks she needs to see a physician along the line...

Anyway...what was supposed to be humorous along the lines of keeping her happy and keeping Pamplemousse faithful to his wife, there was an awful lot of pages devoted to this, and none of which I found remotely interesting.  It would have been better if he had just explained to her that while he found her attractive, he would remain true to his Doucette.  But no...

Then, I never really understood why he was the target of someone wanting him out of the way.  He never asked questions; he never tried to find out who sent him the head.  So why was someone trying to 'send him a message' or kill him?  It didn't make any sense.  The climactic scene regarding this, late in the book in a hospice, was completely off the wall.  Perhaps if we were given to understand that he was interested in more than his palate or his dog, but we were not.

In the end, when everything is explained, it is neither remotely interesting nor worthy of being called a mystery.  In fact, the only mystery I discovered was the fact that there are several more of these in the series, all of which I will happily skip - you should, too.


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