Ms.pegasus's Reviews > The Grave Gourmet

The Grave Gourmet by Alexander Campion
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Mar 01, 11

bookshelves: mystery, fiction, food
Recommended for: anyone interested in the culinary profession, France, light mysteries.
Read from February 01 to 05, 2011 — I own a copy, read count: 1

THE GRAVE GOURMET by Alexander Campion has created in Capucine an unlikely novice crime detective. Nurtured in the financial crimes division, she is anxious to partake of “real” police work, as an escape from her well-bred tastefully comfortable life. Her cousin is a government insider, and her husband is a well-know restaurant critic. The combination of moxie and elegance is a bit reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn – alternating between naïve charm, feminine wiles, and pit bull doggedness. In other words, Capucine is delightfully entertaining if one can get beyond so fanciful a conception.

The plot is convoluted and though entertaining, not riveting. We don't really come to care much in the end about who murdered the president of the Renault company once it has been established he did not die of food poisoning at Jean-Basile Labrousse's three star Parisian restaurant. The real attraction is the writing – elaborately arch and mocking. Capucine carefully ingratiates herself with the sommelier, Gregoire Rolland in order to extract information: “...once the sluice gates were opened an unstoppable flow of disdain rippled down the channel.” At one point, after hearing Capucine's report, her boss, Tallon, “relaxed slightly, making a noise that sounded like the executive summary of a contented Labrador stretching out in front of a fireplace.”

The most entertaining scenes are of the restaurant in action. Achille, a junior cook tries to pass off a less than perfectly prepared plate of sweetbreads, chestnuts and black truffles. The scene takes up an entire chapter, and is among the most vibrant in the book. Capucine crashes a staff meal in order to catch the staff in a mood more conducive to gossip. The assortment of characters are suddenly exposed in a way that would have been impossible in a conventional police interview.

Impossible dishes are casual backdrops to Capucine's flirtatious conversations with her husband, Alexandre the food critic. There is a stylish intimacy as the level-headed husband playfully works at shifting his spouse's overly intense moods. If this were a film, we'd say the couple has "chemistry."

In conclusion, an enjoyable light read.
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