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Clarke, Stephen - 'Dial M for Merde'
Paperback: 320 pages (Sep. 2008) Publisher: Bantam Press ISBN: 0593056302

This is the antidote to the recent trend of ghost writing old classics - whilst everyone is trying to write the latest James Bond, Stephen Clarke has already written its parody.

Paul West is an Englishman who on returning to Paris is asked to cater at the wedding of one of his best friends, Elodie, to a French aristocrat. This in itself would be a daunting task (an Englishman catering for the French?!), but at the same time he has rekindled his (previously very brief) relationship with Gloria Monday, a beautiful blonde, who has dragged him to the South of France to investigate caviar trafficking.

As Paul gets embroiled in a variety of scrapes, sometimes chasing caviar leads and at others reviewing wedding menu options, he starts to get the feeling that things are not all that they seem. Gloria, or M as she prefers to be called, disappears for long periods and has mysterious conversations on her mobile. She also does not really seem to care about sturgeon sightings when he discovers them.

Picked up by a sinister brunette and her aggressive cronies, Paul discovers a more alarming explanation for M's behaviour. She wants to assassinate the French President. What with trying to sleep with her, spy on her and at the same time cater for a highly upper class wedding, it is only a matter of time before Paul is in the Merde. And it's all about to hit the fan.

This is a really entertaining read. The main character, Paul West is flawed, but likeable and his exploits would not be out of place in a comedy like Fawlty Towers. The situations that he finds himself in are ridiculous, as are some of the characters, but you can't help hoping that he will triumph. As a new reader of the Merde books, I enjoyed this romp and would recommend it to anyone with a sense of humour. The only problem is for some of laughs you really have to read the French conversations out loudů!

Amanda Brown, England
October 2008

More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 27/03/2009 13:02