Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Chef Maurice & a Spot of Truffle: Mini Review (in honor of Hamilton, the mini-pig)

CM: Snatched from below our noses!
AW-S: It was three days ago, Maurice. Our noses weren't even out of bed.
~Chef Maurice; Arthur Wordington-Smythe

When Chef Maurice plunges into the realm of investigation, all he thinks he's going to find is a new source of a very expensive truffle. What a coup for Le Couchan Rouge, his little restaurant in the south of England! But before he knew where he was, he had landed smack dab in the middle of a murder investigation and had acquired a mini-pig in the bargain. Hamilton, the mini-pig, was, of course, necessary--since Chef Maurice needed a champion truffle finder to help him track down the source of the mysterious truffles. But the murder he could certainly do without. After all, the victim was Ollie Meadows his wild herb and mushroom supplier and how was Chef Maurice supposed to make all those delectable mushroom dishes if Ollie was no longer delivering various forms of fungi? Things get serious when Hamilton is pignapped and the inquisitive chef receives a threatening note. He convinces his friend Arthur Wordington-Smythe to play Hastings to his Poirot (no, really--this book is an obvious hat-tip to Christie's creation) and the two are off, Camembert and crackers in hand, to track down the miscreant. The two amateur detectives will encounter a missing dog, a stolen map, an angry gun-totin' uncle, and magic mushrooms before they get to the bottom of the mystery.

I have the Puzzle Doctor at In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel to thank for bringing J. A. Lang's delightful cozy mystery series to my attention (click link for his review of Truffle). And he didn't steer me wrong. This book which offers a tribute to Agatha Christie has a plot that definitely follows in her footsteps while injecting a good deal of humor. I laughed out loud several times throughout the story just picturing our heroes in their detective efforts. And this is one of the few times when an author writes from animal points of view and it actually works. Hamilton's take on the world and brief snippets from Wordington-Smythe's dog and a few cows are great fun. Chef Maurice is over the top, but in a good way--he doesn't distract from the plot and, at bottom, he seems like a very nice guy. The supporting case--from his Hastings-like side-kick to his assistant chefs to the local PC--are great fun and the book serves as a very good introduction to Lang's cast of characters. ★★★★ for a fun, cozy series debut.


fredamans said...

Sounds like a delightful mystery! I have seen this one around before, and recently too. Is this a newer book?
Great review!

Bev Hankins said...

Freda: Yes, this is a fairly new series (just three out that I know of). Quite fun!