In Young’s (Fleeting Chance, 2014, etc.) fifth series installment, semiretired private detective Enescu Fleet and his friends find themselves in a real pickle when they attend a restaurant opening and discover that murder’s on the menu.
John “Hath” Hathaway—the Watson to Fleet’s Sherlock—narrates this story in his signature beguilingly baffled way. Arriving home from his honeymoon with his new wife, Hath finds a message awaiting them in the mail. Although he suffers a natural aversion to invitations, due to their propensity to embroil him in danger (“Witness last summer’s banquet at the famed Pendleton Institute in Baltimore; poker night on The Stacked Deck touring yacht—there have been others”), he’s happy to receive this one. An old classmate, Ditters Dittersdorf, is opening a restaurant, Le Vrai Cornichon, and wants his friends there for the soft opening. As it turns out, the whole gang is invited, including Hath’s friends Hutton and Ate, as well as Fleet. But Fleet’s invite leaves a bad taste in Hath’s mouth: “When would he have met Ditters? It didn’t make sense.” After they all arrive at the remote restaurant, Young rapidly introduces readers to the staff and other guests, which include three TV cooking show chefs. This smorgasbord of characters, though delightful, appears so quickly that just keeping track of who’s who distracts from the plot, which teems with red herrings and revelations that hinge on characters’ histories. In simpler terms: Young very nearly has too many cooks. At least one of his characters agrees, as it’s not long before a chef goes missing. From there, the story complicates quickly, boiling over with riddles, hidden pasts, former lovers, devious plots, and even a second Maltese. As Hath himself advises, it’s best to have read the other books in the series first. This will free up the reader’s attention to savor Young’s subtle wit and playful style—hallmarks of the series and the reasons why Fleet’s adventures are among the most entertaining in the genre. But like Fleeting Chance before it, this story isn’t all laughs; the re-emergence of an old enemy marks a new arc for the series and hints at slightly darker territory ahead. It turns out that if Fleet wants to preserve his friends, he may be forced to be less semiretired.
Another delectable entry in a brilliant series.