Monday, February 9, 2009

Monsieur Pamplemousse Takes the Cure and Monsieur Pamplemousse Investigates by Michael Bond

This review originally appeared in somewhat different form on Ex Libris Reviews. Copyright 2004. Reprinted with permission.

I had meant to review this before now, but Monsieur Pamplemousse Takes the Cure, to speak in culinary terms like its hero, is light and airy like a meringue and was thus quickly forgotten. It's not a bad book, simply a fluffy mystery where the mystery itself is second to the engaging characters of Monsieur Aristide Pamplemousse and his dog, Pommes Frites.

Gourmand that he is, Pamplemousse is shocked to be sent to investigate a health camp where elderly women are dying. In order to retain the companionship of Pommes Frites, he masquerades as a blind man, which not only works but also places him in close proximity to various unaware — and therefore unashamed — nude women.

The Monsieur Pamplemousse series is funny and charming, which is to be expected from the author of the Paddington Bear series, and Monsieur Pamplemousse Takes the Cure is as good a starting point as any, as it appears that previous series knowledge is not necessary to enjoy the story.

As charming as I'd found Monsieur Pamplemousse Takes the Cure, I never imagined I would actually pick up another book in the series — especially as they all seemed to be out of print at the time. But there I was, at the library book sale, and what should pop out at me but Monsieur Pamplemousse Investigates for one dollar. I quickly snatched it up and began reading it almost immediately. Sadly, it does not reach the novel heights of its predecessor.

Aristide Pamplemousse awakens to the news that le directeur of Le Guide, the eminent restaurant guide where Pamplemousse works, is dead. Dressed in mourning (complete with similar attire for Pommes Frites), he arrives at work to see that the news was in fact incorrect. This is never explained to my satisfaction, but the story continues anyway.

Le Guide has been transferring all of its data to computer via les disques and someone has sabotaged the publication by putting a Chinese take-out restaurant at the top of the Recommended list. Quelle dommage!

The main suspect turns out to be Madame Grante, the company accountant and the only other person with full access to the database. Strangely enough, she has taken missing, so Pamplemousse is sent to find her so the problem can be rectified before the guide's release date ... in three days.

Pamplemousse and Pommes Frites still make a charming couple (he certainly shows his dog more respect than he shows his wife, Doucette), but it appears that Bond is losing interest. Although the story centers around the then-newly burgeoning computerization of publishing, Monsieur Pamplemousse Investigates is very much in the style of an old-fashioned mystery, albeit an inferior one.

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