MONSIEUR PAMPLEMOUSSE RESTS HIS CASE.
199 pages. $17.
If you got Georges Feydeau thoroughly snockered on champagne and foie gras at Maxim's, then directed him to write a whodunit, the results would approximate the adventures of Aristide Pamplemousse and his sidekick Pommes Frites, a bloodhound with an educated palate.
Although he is the creation of an Englishman -- Michael Bond's most popular series character is one Paddington Bear -- the thoroughly French M. Pamplemousse is in the tradition of the great farceurs. As the former police detective tours around the countryside in the service of his new job -- restaurant inspector for a prestigious gourmet guide -- he encounters not only nefarious murders and fabulous meals, but lusty women, curious chambermaids, capacious wardrobes (for hiding in, of course), and a wife who manages to show up at the wrong moment. Would the fastidious Hercule Poirot ever find himself locked in a brothel, wearing a D'Artagnan costume, a woman's handbag and a pair of handcuffs?
"Monsieur Pamplemousse Rests His Case," the seventh in the series, is set in the spa town of Vichy, where a group of American gourmets, all authors of culinary mysteries, have gathered to re-create a meal made famous by Alexandre Dumas. One, a specialist in thehard-boiled genre, keels over at a sidewalk cafe, calling for wine and fish. The killer eventually is unmasked, but this souffle of a mystery is fueled not on police procedure, but on clever wordplay and lots of incredible French edibles. It's a delightful, if insubstantial, meal. Written and photographed by Zheng Zhensun.
80 pages. $17.95.
At the age of 2, when most of us were learning how to hold a paint brush, artist Wang Yani began her amazing career painting the things she knew and loved. By the time she was 4, her paintings of cats and monkeys were being exhibited in major Chinese cities. One special painting, a baby monkey scratching his mother's back, was used on a Chinese postage stamp.
"A Young Painter" is the story of her career (she now is 16), told by Zheng Zhensun, a photojournalist who spent six months with Yani and her family. He tells her story with words, photographs and, of course, her beautiful artwork.
We can share Yani's own feelings and memories, which are as important as her visual stories.
Designed for the younger reader (including the use of larger type), "A Young Painter" flows as smoothly as Yani's brush across a page.
WOMEN OF THE SILK.
276 pages. $18.95.
The year is 1919 and the setting is a village in China. Pei is the younger daughter of an impoverished couple. Unable to make ends meet, her father consults a fortune teller and comes to the decision that Pei must be sent to work in a distant silk factory. After the shock of being left behind in the strange new place, the child's innate curiosity and intelligence carry her through the difficult days of starting her new life as a laborer. The money she earns goes to support her family.
Bright, spirited and eager for life, she becomes friends with the other girls in her factory and makes the best of her fate. Her story is full of understanding. The limitations of the society that envelops Pei are presented in a beautifully natural way, and without censure, as Pei herself would have experienced them.