As Wendy immerses herself in a writing project, Jack takes on the Monday book this week.
Mayle is best known for his amusing semi-autobiographical books featuring an Englishman living in France (A Year in Provence etc) and in some ways this is another of the same – but not quite!
This does have an Englishman and it is set in France, but it’s also very different from Mayle’s previous books. This is a classic and gripping heist story and even has a femme fatale.
The basic premise concerns the fact that truffles (not the chocolate kind – the ones that grow underground) are worth a fortune and there are no ways to farm them to order. The Englishman gets caught up in the auction of a case containing the formula for growing truffles plus vials of spores in the formula ready to go. The auction involves some very shady and dangerous folk, a great deal of money and a beautiful American girl. There’s humor as well, including a group of drunken monks who aren’t really monks at all – they just dress like they are!
The odd thing is that this time some of Mayle’s characters are just a bit shallow and two dimensional but it doesn’t actually matter too much for two reasons. First of all the story is really great and rattles along at a terrific pace and secondly the descriptions of countryside and villages of the south of France which are spot on. I toured that part of the world quite a few times with my old group Heritage – so I know of whence I speak.
In case that sounds like less than a euphoric endorsement, I should say that if you like a gripping story with engaging characters, a cliff-hanger ending and some tongue in cheek laughs then you will surely enjoy this.
I know I did!