French food farce. The waiter did it?
Monsieur Pamplemousse: A Gastronomic Mystery, by Michael Bond. Beaufort Books Inc. 192 pp. $14.95 A GOOD souffl'e never falls flat, and neither does Michael Bond's story.
His hero, Monsieur Pamplemousse tastes, sips, sniffs, and sighs through this gastronomic mystery as any good detective should. No matter how severe his boss gets, no matter how much Pommes Frites (his loyal bloodhound-companion) suffers from his gastronomic excesses, they plunge ahead with aplomb.
I think Bond (author of the popular Paddington Bear stories) is as funny as P.G. Wodehouse, and so would Bertie Wooster. Certainly Mr. Wooster could fit into the picture as M. Pamplemousse surveys the grand dining room of Les Cinq Parfaits, Haute Savoie, France.
We know at once that M. Pamplemousse is a good detective because he is reading ``The Hound of the Baskervilles,'' and sometimes almost calls his dog Watson. Dr. Watson never wagged a tail, of course, but many students of Holmes have noted Dr. Watson's soulful eyes and wrinkly forehead.
It is very legitimate for Pamplemousse to peruse ``the various delights of the menu gastronomique.'' Though retired from his career as an inspector with the Paris police, he is now acting as a secret agent for Le Guide, a French culinary guide.
So it is indeed very necessary, as we said legitimate, for Pamplemousse to undertake the rigorous necessity of mixing framboises (``He added a little more cream''), cr`eme caramel, coquilles St. Jacques, cr^epes suzettes, jambon, sorbets, and all sorts of patisseries with a missing man, with a crisis that could affect the oil supply of all of France, and with a certain Fr"aulein Br"unnhilde.
Naturally, there is a cast that includes a little French car (brakeless) with steep mountain roads, hairpin turns, picnics, and panic, all not necessarily in that order.
Mixing a bit of French farce with the crime novel works in this case because we have a likable hero with a charming companion, the redoutbable Pommes Frites. Zany, some frou-frou, not always proper, a touch unseemly here and there, but friendly fun.
An actor of the caliber of the late Peter Sellers would do a fine job of playing M. Pamplemousse. It's that kind of humor. Who could do the bloodhound Pommes Frites, I have no idea.