Saturday, November 17, 2012

Killer Critique

I'm not going to be *that* harsh ^^^^^, but suffice it to say I wouldn't recommend this book. I read it out of curiosity. It was written by a grade school friend's Dad and has been pretty well received and translated in to multiple languages. He is a former finance guy turned food critic turned author. He's not French but has spent most of his adult life there.

Anyway, this is the third in a series of Capucine mysteries. I like mysteries but I'm not a foodie so probably wouldn't have picked this up if I hadn't known the author.

Capucine is a detective on the Paris police force. Her husband Alexandre is a food critic. The books starts off with a prominent food critic being murdered in a restaurant. Capucine is assigned to the case.

Not long after a second critic is murdered also while dining out. Theories of a serial killer quickly spread. Capucine begins to worry about her own husband and wonders if he is also a target.

After the third murder she figured out who the killer is, but struggled to find proof.  In order to prove her theory they set up an elaborate trap at the reopening of the Jules Verne restaurant on the Eiffel Tower. The ending while plausible is a bit anticlimactic, as it doesn't really explain in detail how the murders were committed leaving the reader to assume the earlier theories are correct. I prefer getting a little recap of the how at the end of a mystery.

Since the author's background is in food and his target audience are foodies, there are quite a few details of the meals prepared and consumed throughout the book. These parts were for the most part wasted on me. I've eaten crazy concoctions off of tasting menus at renowned restaurants but I much prefer a good steak.

Still I enjoyed the part of the book describing the Diner en Blanc. I had heard of it before but had forgotten about it. Turns out there is a copycat version in Chicago - may have to try that next year.

While most authors do end up sharing their opinions in aspects of the story, there were parts where I thought the author's disdain for certain things were too abundantly clear. The current French president and his young wife,  and a restaurant where patrons eat in the dark to experience what it is like to be blind are two examples.

At times I feel like the author tried too hard to create interesting characters. That may sound like a weird critique, but just as flat characters are boring, some of his characters were so over the top some of them didn't really make sense - Vavasseur being one of them. When Capucine tells her brother Jacques that she is having trouble with the case, he introduces her to a man named Vavasseur who lives in a tunnel along the Seine. Whenever she comes she brings gourmet food supposedly provided by social services, and he provides the wine (which he keeps chilled in the river) They talk about the case but also about other things which all help Capucine solve the case. I'm not saying homeless people can't be intelligent, but the author seemed to go over the top with portraying Vavasseur as an intelligent refined man, but then never gives a reason for his current situation. Maybe he already has plans for him to develop this character more in a future book and provide more of his back story.

Bottom line, if you're a foodie or a Francophile you may enjoy this.  If not, I'd say skip it. 

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