Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Book Review: The Vintage Caper by Peter Mayle

The Vintage Caper

Author: Peter Mayle
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Date of Publication: July 13, 2010
Pages: 240 (Trade Paper Edition)

     This wonderful little novel is a very low intensity crime escapade.  The basic plot involves the professional theft of three million dollars worth of rare wine from the cellar of a bombastic egomaniac in Hollywood and the insurance investigation which ensues.  Sam Levitt is a rogue corporate lawyer, wine connoisseur and sometimes private investigator who ultimately solves the crime.  He is aided by Sophie Costes,  a petite and perky French insurance representative whose local knowledge and connections complement Sam's investigation.

     The novel is really much more a platform for Peter Mayle, accomplished travel writer and Francophile to display his encyclopedic knowledge of Marseilles, Paris and French food and wines.  His lush descriptions of the architecture, scenery and (especially) the food and wine of southern France makes this book delicious.  Don't read this book if you are on a diet or are avoiding wines, because the temptation to indulge is very well cultivated by the author. An example of Mr. Mayle's enticing prose:

     "Sam went out into the fresh morning air and inspected his breakfast.  Neatly arranged on the crisp white cloth that covered the table on his terrace was everything a reasonable man could want at the start of the day: an aromatic pot of cafe filtre, a large jug of hot milk, two chubby golden croissants, and copy of the Herald Tribune.   He put on his sunglasses, checked that the view was still as fine as it had been yesterday, and sat down with a pleasant sense of well-being.  His cell phone rang."

     The Vintage Caper is a perfect vacation read.  It is entertaining, humorous and educational.  The author is at his best describing the experience of visiting southern France and all of the sensual delights which accompany that.  I enjoyed this book very much and think that anyone with an interest in travel, French foods and wine as well as fine writing would as well.

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