Saturday, November 28, 2015

Chef Maurice and a Spot of Truffle: J. A. Lang

Description from the author's website:
“They say one should never trust a thin chef. By this measure, Chef Maurice was very trustworthy indeed.” 
It’s autumn in the Cotswolds, and Chef Maurice is facing a problem of mushrooming proportion. 
Not only has his wild herb and mushroom supplier, Ollie Meadows, missed his weekly delivery—he’s missing vital signs too, when he turns up dead in the woods near Beakley village.
In general I don't want a book to be too cozy, and I don't look for humor in my mysteries, but somehow J. A. Lang put those two together and created a book that I found charming.

Why did I read this book? First, because I saw a very, very positive review at the Puzzle Doctor's blog, In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel. Second, because I like to try the occasional book outside of my comfort zone, on both ends of the spectrum. Third, because the author contacted me and asked me to read and review it (back in June of this year, I am very slow). I did, however, purchase my own paperback copy.

This book is about 230 pages long, and about 22 chapters. I think it took me about 3 chapters to settle in. From that point I enjoyed it to the end. Some of the characters are over the top, especially the main character, Chef Maurice. Yet I found the characters to be the most attractive part of the book. Even the sleazy ones. I had a hard time believing I would like Maurice's pet pig, who was adopted from The Helping Paws Pet Sanctuary in Cowton to aid in the hunt for truffles. But I did enjoy Hamilton, the micro-breed pig, and his presence did not dominate the story.

Basically, Chef Maurice is interested in food and cooking and his restaurant. All of his motivations are ruled by his search for good foods, supplies for his restaurant, and ... truffles. This is how he sees the policewoman working on the case...
It was PC Lucy Gavistone, of the Cowton and Beakley Constabulary, and the only member of the force who lived in Beakley itself. She ate at Le Cochon Rouge every Sunday lunch and always tipped well.
Other favorite characters are Maurice's friend Arthur Wordington-Smythe, a food and restaurant critic and Patrick, the sous-chef. Here they have a conversation about Patrick's dinner date with PC Lucy...
“What if she's an awful cook? Should I lie?”

“Never,” said Chef Maurice, who lied all the time.

“Absolutely,” said Arthur, the happily married man. “Make sure to have second helpings too. The way to a woman's heart is through your stomach.”

Patrick looked pained. “Can I at least offer constructive criticism?" 
“Not if you don't want her to retaliate,” said Arthur, patting him on the shoulder. “Especially at a point in the evening when you least expect it.” 
I thought about adding a bit more description of the plot but decided just to point you to other reviews which do cover that in more detail:

At the Scene of the Crime
Euro Crime (by Rich Westwood)
A Crime is Afoot
My Reader's Block

The real test of how much I like a book is whether I am motivated to buy the next book. I am definitely putting #2 in this series on my Christmas list.

Publisher:  Purple Panda Press, 2015
Length:   229 pages
Format:   trade paperback
Series:    Chef Maurice #1
Setting:   UK (Cotswolds)
Genre:    humorous cozy mystery


  1. First José Ignacio, and now you, Tracy....Hmm... I think I may have to put this one on my TBR. It sounds like a really solid story, and sometimes, something a little lighter is just what the doctor ordered.

    1. It is definitely worth a try, Margot. A very entertaining book.

  2. Tracy, I'm glad you enjoyed this one and hopefully the next. Unsurprisingly I won't be tracking down my own copy.

    1. I thought that would probably be your response, Col. I read a really bleak novel I hope to review soon... so maybe you will like that one.

    2. If you haven't already read it. I can't remember.

  3. I will try and get this and like it, I really well, but it is going to take a big effort, I have to tell you ...

    1. Sergio, There are some elements of this book that would cause me to initially be reluctant, especially a pun in the title. But I had already decided to try a modern cozy now and then, so this seemed a good place to start. If you do try it, I hope you find it worth the effort. I do have problems pushing outside of my boundaries because I cannot read that many books in a year and I already have way too many.

  4. Tracy, I like a bit of wit and humour in every book I read irrespective of the genre. The cover does indicate this book could be funny which, as you say, it is.

    1. This was a fun and pleasant read and I will be reading more of them, Prashant.

  5. I wouldn't have thought of reading this book without your review - I would just assume it was nice enough but not my kind of thing. But that's what you'd be expected to think too, isn't it? - and you liked it. So I will have to consider it.

    1. It was much more appealing than I thought it would be, Moira, even with the positive reviews I had read by readers who also read more hard core mysteries. I have already purchased the next one. This is the polar opposite of Ice Harvest, and both types will still be in the minority on my bookshelves.