Picks and Pans Review: Anything Considered
by Peter Mayle
Leave it to the author of two valentines to the French countryside—A Year in Provence and Toujours Provence—to write a savory novel in which a briefcase being desperately pursued across southern France contains not drugs, jewels or cash but a secret formula for cultivating those rare, hideously expensive knobs of glorified fungus called truffles. Mayle's hero, Bennett, is a transplanted Englishman in his mid-30s who needs work, so he takes out a job-wanted ad promising "anything considered."
The plea leads Bennett to sleek, amiably ruthless millionaire Julian Poe, who enlists him in a little tax dodge that requires Bennett to pose as Poe and live sumptuously in Monaco for six months. Bennett eagerly agrees—and soon discovers his patron's real agenda when a mysterious delivery goes awry.
The ensuing chase is riddled with clichés, including a luscious female sidekick, an enormous yacht and a swarthy bad guy. But Mayle's connoisseurship of the good and simple country life is amply in evidence, even though his characters are so cardboard they're corrugated and the plot has holes bigger than Lascaux. If you don't mind a fast-food story told with a gourmet's verve, bon appétit. (Knopf, $23)
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