April 15, 1985 12:00 PM

by Michael Bond

The gentleman in the title of this frothy farce is a former member of the Sûreté, who has retired because of some vague transgression having to do with a lot of chorus girls. His current job is rating the great restaurants of France for Le Guide, which uses stockpots as symbols of excellence. Pamplemousse believes that hunger is “the best sauce in the world.” His constant companion and fellow taster (who usually lurks under the table) is a massive bloodhound named Pomme Frites. The two of them are visiting the Hôtel-Restaurant La Langostine. Their job: to decide whether the food there is truly worthy of three stockpots. At dinner, however, things go badly amiss when the main dish is served: Inside a pig’s bladder is what appears to be a human head. It is remarkably like the one that belongs to a young man seated nearby in the company of an expensively dressed young woman. The police arrive, of course. Secret notes are passed around and, as always in a French farce, they manage to get into the wrong hands. Madame Sophie, who is the wife of the proprietor, finds one of the missives and thinks that M. Pamplemousse expects her to be in his room that night. This whole novel is ridiculous, occasionally bawdy and most of the time light as a bubble—just as it should be. It succeeds because outrageous, unexpected things keep happening. The author has written 13 kids’ books about Padding-ton Bear. This one most definitely is not for children. (Beaufort, $13.95)

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