The Vintage Caper

Peter Mayle
Quercus; £12.99

PETER MAYLE is best known for his first book A Year in Provence, which was made into a television series starring John Thaw. He has since written 11 books, five of them novels. This is his first crime novel.

Once again, it is set in beautiful Provence and also the vineyards of Bordeaux. However, the story begins in the Hollywood hills where we meet Danny Roth. His problem is that he owns a wonderful and extensive collection of wines, the best vintages from the finest chateaux of Bordeaux but not enough people are aware of his treasures. He decides to invite a journalist to photograph and write about his magnificent cellar. Of course the inevitable happens and the jewel in the crown of his collection, 500 bottles of premier cru claret from Bordeaux, are stolen.

Roth’s insurance company is suspicious and calls in Sam Levitt, wine connoisseur, former corporate lawyer and expert on world-class crime. His investigation takes him from LA to Paris and on to the vineyards of Bordeaux and Provence. His sidekick is the chic and beautiful Sophie Costes. Together they work their way through the menus in a mouthwatering number of fragrant restaurants, quaff numerous bottles of elegant wine and even fit in a visit to Charlie Haughey’s favourite shirt-maker, Charvet. The mystery deepens with a twist in the tale at the end. As a crime novel, this book is gentle and amusing with not a gun or a body in sight and a good holiday read.

This is definitely a book for wine connoisseurs, Francophiles and lovers of French food. Meals are described with all the detail and passion of an art critic in love with the artist. You can almost taste and smell the food even when it is something like kidneys or black ink squid. You learn how to eat oysters without dribbling and how to decant wine. This book left me feeling thirsty for a glass of Bordeaux and hungry for beef cheeks with a slice of foie gras, followed by a fondant au chocolat.


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