Review of The Grave Gourmet by Alexander Campion
Overview from www.bn.com:
From the Champs-Élysées to the twinkling banks of la Seine, chic Parisian policewoman Capucine LeTellier plunges into a uniquely Parisian affair of gastronomic delights and bureaucratic intrigue to close a case that could make her career—or kill it. . .
After dining on such delicacies as oyster sorbet and avocado soufflé, Jean-Louis Delage, président of automotive giant Renault, has been found dead in the freezer of Le Diapason, a three-star restaurant owned by Chef Jean-Basille Labrousse, a renowned restaurateur extraordinaire.
Capucine is uniquely suited to the case, as her husband Alexandre is a food critic well-connected to the culinary world. In between sharing sumptuous meals and fine wine with Alexandre at Paris’ finest eateries, Capucine struggles to win the respect of her new squad of detectives and crack both the case and the guarded secrets of the restaurant staff.
The Grave Gourmet is the first of a series (aren’t they all?- the Free Friday books that is) called the Capucine Culinary Series. I was excited by this one because it is a Mystery series but in a slightly different setting than I am used to seeing.
This detective is a French female “flic” or police officer. Her name is Capucine which immediately made me think of cappuccino and thus conjured up positive feelings in me. I know, she is French, not Italian, but still, she sounded promising.
I did like her character for the most part. She is funny, witty and determined to become a detective even though she is two years too young to apply. This first case is her godsend chance to prove that she has what it takes but it starts off looking like a clear-cut case of food poisoning.
The victim is found dead in the refrigerator of a three-star restaurant called the Diapason in Paris. When his body is found high levels of a certain type of oyster poison are found in his system and it is know that he had dined at the restaurant the night he was killed (as well as on many other occasions).
However, the plot thickens when it is discovered that the levels of the poison are far too high for the amount of the oysters that he consumed, ergo, someone must have added the poison to his food to make it look like food poisoning. The question of course is who?
“Who” is a big question though because it turns out that there are more than a few people who might have either opportunity or motive to bump off the head of Renault.
For a while the case seems to be a dead-end until Capucine’s flic sense kicks into overdrive. She has a hunch and then acts on it. Through endless hours of surveillance she finally gets her suspect and meanwhile a few other criminals who are not murders but were involved nevertheless.
But wait! There is still the surprising twist at the end that really gets to Capucine. She gets her wings though and is made detective. Thus she will presumably have several more cases to solve over the course of the series.
I mentioned that the main character was a plus but I also enjoyed learning the strange ins and outs of the French government even though I am not sure how accurately they are portrayed here. The mystery was definitely different from anything Agatha Christie ever wrote and that kept me interested.
The downside was only the swearing. It was a little too heavy for my taste. If you don’t mind that, yet you like mysteries set in Paris, you just might enjoy this one. I liked it but it wasn’t one of my favorites. I don’t think I will continue with this series.
Contains: sexuality, foul language