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 A sinister plot to corner the truffles market provides the backdrop for another delightful trek through the French countryside in this third novel from the ever-popular Mayle (Hotel Pastis, 1993; A Dog's Life, 1995, not reviewed). An easygoing expatriate Brit with a career in film production behind him, Luciano Bennett couldn't be happier with his new, ambition-free life as a house-sitter in the tiny French village of Saint-Martin. Dreading a return to London once his meager savings run out, Bennett places an ad in the International Herald Tribune tendering his services. The ad is answered by the mysterious, extremely wealthy Julian Poe, who offers Bennett a luxurious, all- expenses-paid life in his Monaco bachelor pad in exchange for performing an occasional errand. Hardly believing his luck, Bennett throws himself wholeheartedly into a rich man's life--driving Poe's Mercedes around town and dining at the best restaurants on Poe's tab. What Bennett doesn't realize is that Poe plans to use him as the drop man for a secret formula for artificially cultivating truffles--a formula that will enable Poe to wrest control of the lucrative truffles market from the French. When Sicilian gangsters intercept the delivery of the formula, the enraged Poe threatens to kill Bennett if he doesn't recover it. A Keystone Kopsstyle chase across France ensues, involving half a dozen international gangsters, the French police, and a very unusual order of monks. Fortunately, Poe has arranged for lovely Anna Hersh, a former Israeli Army sergeant, to act as Bennett's accomplice, thus enabling Bennett to enjoy a number of deliciously romantic repasts in cafes throughout southern France before his final triumph over the bad guys. It is this gustatory travelogue, rather than the unabashedly silly caper, that will keep Mayles's loyal readers satisfied. Stylish and amusing as ever. (First printing of 150,000; Book- of-the-Month/QPB selection)

Pub Date: June 5th, 1996
ISBN: 0-679-44123-9
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1996


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