I prefer True Crime to fiction, but since our staff book group decided to read an international mystery I was forced to dive into the genre. Surprisingly, I found a “cozy” book that I enjoyed.
Monsieur Pamplemousse on the Spot is by British author Michael Bond. Bond is best known as a writer of children’s fiction and the creator of Paddington Bear. His Pamplemousse series of humorous culinary mysteries is for the adult market.
Aristide Pamplemousse, once a detective with the Paris Surete, was forced into retirement because of a scandalous incident with some showgirls from the Follies Bergere. He now works as a gourmet food critic for Le Guide and travels throughout France, dining well and investigating the mysteries that inevitably crop up whenever he’s around.
Assisting him in these endeavors, playing Watson to his Holmes, is a large, drooling, personable, bloodhound named Pommes Frittes, also retired from the Surete where he worked in the Division Chiens.
For those who are not bilingual, Pamplemousse is the French word for grapefruit and Pommes Frittes is French Fry. So whenever crime rears its ugly head, Mr. Grapefruit and his dog French Fry are on the case, ready and able to solve the mystery while knoshing on Quenelles de veau washed down with a bottle of Chateau d’Yquem ‘45.
The plot of this book, third in the 16 volume series, takes place at a luxury resort where Mon. P is on vacation. Unfortunately, the resort’s master chef has gone missing, which means that there will be no Souffle Surprise on the menu that night. Quelle disaster!
Pamplemousse reluctantly strolls into action and while searching for the kiboshed cook uncovers an additional mystery at a local private school, which has a disturbingly high accident rate among its pretty female students. However, the investigation is hampered by the fact that Pommes Frittes is literally sick as a dog. Unfortunately, during a midnight meander the chow-loving hound happened upon the restaurant’s trash bins and ate himself into a stupor. Bad Dog!
The plotting of the mystery is rather haphazard and occasionally confusing, but plot is not really the point in books like these. The characters are likeable, especially the dog. It’s easy going and the dialogue is amusing with our not-so-dynamic duo getting into situations that are gently humorous but not maudlin or excessively cutesy. As a bonus for food fans there are some delectable descriptions of glorious gourmet goodies.
The only criticism I have lies in the resolution of the mystery. The comic storyline suddenly goes dark with a denouement that involves white slavery and a cynical application of Realpolitik in international relations. It’s incongruous with the souffle light tone previously established by the book.
Despite the disconcerting ending I enjoyed Monsieur Pamplemousse on the Spot and would recommended it for food fans, dog lovers or anyone looking for a funny lightweight mystery with international flair.