Monday, June 30, 2014

Hotel Pastis

By Peter Mayle

Simon Shaw has a pretty good life. A busy advertising executive, he has a nice home, fancy cars, a manservant and plenty of money in the bank. What he doesn't have is happiness. His marriage has just ended and he is frankly bored with his job. He needs a change of scenery. So he goes to France, driving his Porche to Provence. But he has an accident in his car and it gets a little damage, requiring repairs. The local mechanic says it may be several days before the needed parts arrive. Which is OK, because Simon has just met an attractive woman whose car is also being repaired and it isn't long before they get together.
The woman, Nicole, eventually talks Simon into investing in a local building project and turning it into a hotel. Simon, who enjoyed his time in Provence and, especially, his time with Nicole, agrees and retires from the ad agency and spends lots of money fixing up the building to be a hotel. His manservant, Ernest, is a natural born hotel manager and takes over much of the work of the daily running of a hotel.
So the hotel opens and is a huge success, with some minor complications, including payoffs to the local mobster and the accidental kidnapping of a rich man's college-age son by a group of bike-riding bank robbers.

This was an enjoyable read. The author makes the area sound like heaven on Earth,  which I doubt that it is. I'm sure it has its charms but it must have it faults too, like anywhere. The story is light and no one gets hurt and all turns out well in the end for everyone, even the disenchanted Simon.
For another review, see:,,20106712,00.html.

The Strange Bedfellows of Montague Ames

By Norton Parker

Montague Ames has only been married for a year, yet his wife Sheila is planning on leaving him. She is disappointed in him, he seems to have lost his passion, energy and enthusiasm.
Monty is struggling at work too. He is often lost in a daydream and at other times, briefly, he is filled with energy and ideas, but it quickly passes. After a strange outburst at work, his boss sends him home. He's not fired, but now his job is in jeopardy along with his marriage.
Looking for help, Monty falls into the clutches of a Freudian psychiatrist, Dr. Smythe. After just one session with the doctor, Monty has a personality crisis and he "births" his superego and his id. Now instead of one Monty, there are three, much to the joy of Dr. Smythe, who sees it as a great opportunity for study and experimentation. Smythe, it transpires, cares little about Monty's mental health and more about research, even to the detriment of Monty's well-being.
So now there are three versions of Montague Ames. His superego, who goes by the name of Walter, is smart, talented, dynamic and charming. Sheila, not knowing who Walter really is, falls hard for him, much to Monty's chagrin. And there is Ollie, Monty's id, a rough, brutish fellow who has a taste for raw meat and a certain animal attraction.
Walter, the superego, takes the world by storm, charms Monty's boss, Sheila, and everyone he meets, including the president of the United States. Thanks to him, the whole gang, including Smythe, end up living on an estate where the id, Ollie, plays havoc with neighbor's tame herd of deer. Walter and Ollie are also wooing Sheila as Monty sinks deeper into booze and depression and Dr. Smythe merely stands and observes, more interested in the research than in helping Monty. Monty hatches a scheme to save his wife and himself from his alter-egos, only to be threatened with confinement to a mental hospital. After all, who would really believe that Walter and Ollie are Monty's alter-egos made flesh?

This is a silly story and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's an old book, copyright 1953, but it is a fun look back at a time when smoking was not vilified and, apparently, everyone was a raging alcoholic. Kind of like the TV show Mad Men, these folks constantly have a smoke in one hand and a drink in the other.
This story is a madcap romp, goofy and funny, and a great escape from these modern times.

Pagan Babies

By Elmore Leonard

Father Terry was a Catholic missionary in a village in Rwanda during the genocide of the Tutsis by the Hutus, two tribes in conflict. Holding mass one Sunday, Hutu killers entered the church and slaughtered the Tutsi congregation in front of Father Terry and he was helpless to stop it.
Some years pass and Terry receives word that his mother has died. His mother was the reason Terry became a priest, it was her dream, not his. So he returns to the States.
Once there it soon transpires that Terry has a lot of old baggage he needs to deal with including a felony charge connected to smuggling and old friend who wants his $30,000 dollars back that Terry apparently absconded with when he went (fled) to Africa. A new added complication is Debby, an ex-con who has a serious grudge against her con-artist ex-boyfriend, who conned her out of $67,000. Debby and Terry join forces, Terry to raise money for his mission in Africa and Debby to get back her money from her ex.

I pretty much enjoyed this book. It is an interesting combination of grim reality and goofiness. The Rwanda part is horrifying and terrible and the interactions of the characters in the US are pretty goofy. Terry is a complex guy who is having a struggle trying to understand where his loyalties lie, with his own self-interest, with the people he left behind in Africa or with his family and friends, old and new, back home in Michigan. It remains unclear which way Terry will go and what his true intentions are, even to himself, until the very end of the story.
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Monday, June 16, 2014

Dolly Is Dead

By J. S. Borthwick

Dolly Beaugard was known for her good works. She volunteered and gave generously to local institutions. So when she turned up dead, it just seemed to be a tragic boating accident. But upon closer investigation, it was discovered Dolly's boat had been tampered with.  Her death was no accident, it was murder.
Born into a wealthy family, Dolly had no need to work for a living. Rather plain and stolid, Dolly never married and lived at home with her mother and various other members of her family, including two sisters and  her mother's brother, a retired professor. Dolly also had a brother but he didn't live at the house, he lived nearby with his wife and his son.
A few days  before Dolly's body washed up onshore, two local men were also found dead on the same shore, also apparently victims of a boating accident. But like Dolly, their deaths were not accidental. Small time crooks, the two men had nothing in common with Dolly. Yet they died within days of each other, in similar manner. Was there a connection? Or was it just a coincidence?

This story did not appeal to me. Mysteries are not a genre that I particularly like but I can enjoy one if it has a good story.  I didn't care for any of the characters in the story, villains, victims, family and the amateur investigators who are the main sleuths. I found it all rather dull, sorry to say. I stuck with it because I was curious to see what motive the killer had for murdering Dolly, who, during the course of the story, seems to have no enemies. Turns out it was a very weak motive and quite unbelievable. That was disappointing.
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Bride of the Fat White Vampire

By Andrew Fox

The second book in the saga of Jules Duchon, obese New Orleans vampire. In the last book, Jules changed into a pack of white rats, unable to deal any longer with the vampire life after the murder of his vampire girl friend. This book starts with Jules' dear transsexual vampire friend Doodlebug looking for the ratified Jules, needing his help in dealing with a situation. The vampires of the High Krewe are demanding Jules' help in solving attacks on the younger vampires of their colony. They figure he has the low life connections to discover the person or persons targeting the young vampires. Jules, after being rousted from his ratty  hideaway, only agrees to help to save Doodlebug, not caring for the snotty, hoity-toity vampires of the High Krewe.
Doodlebug has esoteric vampire knowledge, gained from his studies with the vampires of Tibet, knowledge that may enable to resurrect Jules' dead lover, Maureen. But their first attempt at resurrection is a terrible failure, with Maureen only half there, screaming in pain. But Jules is determined not to give up because undead life without Maureen is not worth living.
Meanwhile, Jules, in company with an enemy from the previous story, are trying to discover who is attacking the young High Krewe vampires and who murdered two black preachers. Jules will have to consort with goth vampire wannabes, Baptist preachers, High Krewe's nasty youngsters, and various members of the community who are in conflict over a proposed new superstore (think Walmart). All while having to deal with the failure of his vampire powers due to problems with his re-incorporation, which wasn't quite complete.

Jules seems a lot smarter in this story than he was in the first. This story has a few lighter moments, but overall it is more serious than the first story.  However, it is also less chaotic than the first story and the plot is more straight forward, it seemed to me. So it was easier to follow the action but I did want it to be funnier than it was. Still I did enjoy the story even if it wasn't quite as amusing as the first book.
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