Michael Bond •
Monsieur Pamplemousse and the Secret Mission •
As food critic for Le Guide, Monsieur Pamplemousse (Mr. Grapefruit) travels the length and breadth of France to sample and report on its cuisine. You wouldn’t expect reviewing restaurants to be a dangerous occupation, but M. Pamplemousse gets caught up in one wild adventure after another: If he’s not being assaulted by a self-cleaning toilet, he’s getting bopped over the head with a baguette. “You had breadcrumbs in your wound!” the physician attending him says accusingly.
It all starts when the guide’s directeur commissions M. Pamplemousse to learn what’s going on at his aunt’s hotel. Strange reports of sex-crazed diners have been coming from that quarter; the last reviewer sent there landed in court for “beckoning” to 30 schoolgirls from a nearby convent. When M. Pamplemousse protests that surely this isn’t a crime, his colleague answers, “It all depends . . . on what you beckon with.”
The aunt proves to be so terrible a cook that her restaurant ought to be designated by glasses of Alka-Seltzer rather than stock pots (the Guide’s equivalent of Michelin stars). Monsieur Pamplemousse, appalled at the food, attempts to restore the establishment’s good name by coaching Tante Louise in the use of fresh, seasonal ingredients. His charitable mission is somewhat marred when he has to fend off a mob of irate villagers who want to see his bloodhound, Pommes Frites, neutered—and make it clear they wouldn’t mind doing the same to him.
Ribald, preposterous, and every centimeter the Gallic gourmet, M. Pamplemousse is a far cry from Bond’s more famous creation, an insufferably cute little bear clad in a yellow rain slicker. Yes, he’s that Michael Bond, unleashing his mischievous wit in a distinctly grown-up arena.