Book Review: Monsieur Pamplemousse and the Secret Mission

The book on today’s review pile was read at the suggestion of M, who knows my penchant for a good cozy mystery. Authored by Michael Bond, the brilliant mind behind the ever popular Paddington Bear, I was expecting a similarly engaging style of writing. This being the man who introduced many of us to the wonders of orange marmalade, you can imagine I had high expectations.

Monsieur Pamplemousse and the Secret Mission
Michael Bond

For those for whom French is not a primary or secondary language ‘pamplemousse’ means grapefruit. Monsieur Pamplemousse is a restaurant reviewer, charged by his editor to investigate said editor’s aunt’s restaurant and find out why unusual happenings involving a love potion have been occurring in the area.

Coming to this with thoughts of Paddington, it was quite the sharp left hand turn into Bond’s more adult style of writing. M. Pamplemousse is a married, middle aged connoisseur of fine food and wine. There is an unapologetic open nature to his marriage–he mentions his wife appreciating him being out of the house as well as her guilty conscience and he makes a pass at his editor’s wife when the two couples have dinner.

The good Monsieur is accompanied by his faithful hound (on whom he lavishes far more attention than his wife): Pommes Frites.

On assignment by his editor, Mr. Grapefruit and French Fry drive out from Paris to discover the goings on behind the editor’s aunt’s poor food and the mystery of this love potion. Into the French countryside the pair drives (with a full hamper from Madame Grapefruit), detouring to see a friend about to stand trial for indecent exposure (relating to that love potion) and eventually landing at the inn.

Through a course of meals of varying quality, day trips to neighboring towns, chasing down Pommes Frites when he goes on a hormone driven spree, and various attacks on his person, Monsieur Pamplemousse works to discover the history of an inn that used to be a place recommended for lovers and describes excellent food.

While only the bad guy dies and everything is tied up neatly in the end, I had a little trouble engaging with the story. Bond spends a lot of time on condescending descriptions where a phrase such as “the pressure dropped, and it started to rain.” The food descriptions weren’t quite enough to draw one in, and I have mixed feelings about the lead character. Sometimes I liked him, other times he annoyed me. The scenes written from Pommes Frites voice were engaging, breaking up some of the lofty tone of the book.

I’ll probably read the rest of the series, at least one or two more but if you’re not already a fan of older mysteries, I wouldn’t recommend it.

(Great…now I’m craving Orange Marmalade on a bagel.)