Monday, January 16, 2017

Murder at the Masque: Review

When he forgets to add the truffles to the Chicken Bayonnaise, master chef and sometime amateur detective Auguste Didier decides he really needs to take a holiday from cooking at Plum's Club for Gentlemen. He heads for home in Cannes--ready for sun, real provencale dishes, and, above all, no murders. For lately, it has seemed that murders follow him wherever he goes, from Stockbury Towers to the Galaxy Theatre restaurant to Plum's itself. Surely the threat of murder belongs in London and not in his delightful home town.

Back in London, Didier's friend, Inspector Egbert Rose, is immersed in a case--not of murder--but of daring jewel robberies. These are no ordinary thefts. The cat burglar has been running off with beautiful Faberge eggs with priceless rubies inside. Six missing eggs which belonged to former mistresses of Russia's Grand Duke Igor. The eggs were his parting gift to each lady when flame of love had gone out. Rose is having little luck tracking down the eggs. None of his contacts among the fences have heard a word about them. But then he does learn one thing...there is a seventh egg which has yet to be stolen and it just happens to belong to a woman in Cannes.

Rose isn't the only one headed to Cannes. The Grand Duke, the Duchess and their entourage are there, as well as all the ladies whose eggs have been stolen and their husbands and current amours. The gentlemen are all set to play a prestigious game of cricket with the Gentlemen (the English, under the captaincy of the Prince of Wales) being challenged by the Players (led by the Grand Duke and others from various European states. Some on the Players side are taking the game much too seriously. And someone will use the game as a cover to steal a jeweled dagger and use it to commit murder. 

I remember liking the other Chef Didier book (Murder at Plum's) quite a lot. That was before blogging--so I don't have a real review to tell me exactly why, but I do recall enjoying the atmosphere of the murder at a gentleman's club...vaguely reminiscent of The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Sayers. This outing, Didier's fourth encounter with murder, is far less satisfying. Primarily because it feels like Amy Myers had a bad case of ADD. She can't possibly focus on one character in the vast array of high society, cooks, and policeman for more than a couple pages. We bounce back and forth from Didier to Rose and their encounters with various people, as well as focusing now on the Grand Duke and now on the Prince of Wales and now on the famous ballerina and now.... Well, you get the idea. It's all too exhausting. I don't remember this being such a problem at Plum's. Perhaps it's the difference between Didier in London and Didier in Cannes.

Which, speaking of Didier, he's not quite on the top of his game here. Of course, he is mighty distracted between dallying with the ballerina and discovering that his one true love, a Russian princess who could never marry a mere cook...even if that cook is a MaĆ®tre. Didier concocts solution after solution but he never does get it quite right. And I must say, I wasn't altogether satisfied with the final answer. It seemed a bit of a cop-out to me. The penultimate solution (which Rose allows Didier to believe is the right one) strikes me as a much more fitting one. The plot itself is a decent one and there are some humorous episodes sprinkled throughout that do give the book its redeeming qualities. However, overall, a less than stellar performance from our master chef at ★★ and 1/2. It hasn't put me off the series altogether, but if I do come across another entry I hope it is more in line with my memory of Plum's.

No comments: