Customer Review

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Food .. & Foul-play, 12 April 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Bone in the Throat (Paperback)
This is Bourdain's second novel and was actually released in his native USA way back in 1995, but this makes the book all the more impressive, mainly as it predates what one might consider to be the influences of its creation. What Bourdain has done with this book though is to combine the culinary with crime, and if that wasn't enough, it's filled with gangsters and black humour.
The FBI et al have allowed a con to avoid prison by working for them undercover. The con is placed in charge of a restaurant in which one of the employees, Tommy, has Mafia connections in the form of his uncle, Sally. The con is actually taking the restaurant seriously, but owes money to Sally. Tommy himself has no taste for the gangster lifestyle. The caper all kicks off when Sally forces Tommy to do him a favour, the result of which, quite obviously, is a murder.
It's kind of like reading a cross between The Sopranos and Ready Steady Cook, and the tone constantly swings from a blunt grimness to pathetic farce and back again. It's hard to know whether to laugh or not, but this shouldn't necessarily be seen as a criticism. The humour itself feels like a more subtle Tom Holt, or a slightly less than inspired Tom Sharpe (and that's still a compliment).
Although Sally would fit comfortably into almost any modern gangster film, Tommy is a little too unexciting to make you really feel for him. On the other, the fact that there isn't a single 'nice' character in the whole novel helps provide a realistic grounding for the book's bizarre events: "...a hit-man clad only in cling film..." which can be found in the blurb on the back.
'Bone In The Throat' is hardly a modern classic, but there are only really two things that let the book down. Firstly, as true-to-life as swearing is, Bourdain has a tendency to get carried away and the result is a lot of weary dialog. The other criticism is that because he's a real life chef, he puts far too much emphasis on the processes of cooking and preparation and the like - a whole chapter is devoted to Tommy's culinary skills as he prepares a few things from a tediously long list. These tedious insights belong in a cookbook for they lend nothing towards either character or story development.
Nevertheless, this is a well written and entertaining novel that will keep you turning the pages until you reach the end. You don't even have to be a fan of crime novels!
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