This is the latest Simon Bognor excursion from the pen of former Chairman of the CWA, Tim Heald. Our ageing hero is head of Special Investigations Department at the Board of Trade, (known to one and all as SIDBOT). He is luxuriating in his recent knighthood alongside his self-indulgent but charming wife, Lady Monica, when he is called upon by the Prime Minister’s Office to travel to Spain to investigate the death of one Jimmy Trubshawe, a Costa-dwelling escapee from a British jail. It appears that Jimmy breathed his last after consuming a dish of mushrooms at the Pueblo, at an up-market language school near Salamanca.
The ethos of the school is to have an equal number of English and Spanish clients at one time, all of whom conduct their conversations on various topics solely in English. Simon is to infiltrate this group as a supposed client. He sets off for Spain accompanied by his sidekick, Harvey Contractor, and Lady Monica, who will inhabit a luxury hotel in Salamanca while Sir Simon stays at the Pueblo. Their contacts in the Guardia Civil are fully aware of what is going on.
Sir Simon is somewhat put out when he discovers that Harvey Contractor is extremely knowledgeable on the subject of mushrooms, poisonous and benign. The Guardia Civil inform him that his English fellow-guests at the Pueblo are Tracey, George and Camilla, all of whom seem to be connected with Essex in one way or another, and the Spaniards are Leonel, a businessman, Belen, who is in the hotel business, Eduardo, a shipping magnate, and Lola, a very way-out nun. The courses are led by Arizona Brown, a Californian, and Felipe Lee, who claims to be a by-blow of the late Laurie.
Bognor joins the group and rapidly discovers that none of them are what they seem, and he can rule out none of them. As usual, he tries not to be a snob, but just can’t help it. All his fellow-students behave extremely suspiciously, and one, in the dark and therefore unidentifiable, actually takes a pot-shot at him.
The plot, it has to be said, is skeletally thin, but it is full of wit, erudition and CWA in-jokes, so who could not enjoy it?