Peter Mayle tickles our imaginations yet again with The Vintage Caper, an offering that makes good on Mr. Mayle’s ongoing promise to amuse and satisfy with a lightsome confection set in France.
This entry features a highly valuable (worth about $3 million) cache of wine which is stolen from an L.A. entertainment lawyer. The odious man, who craves attention and lives to gloat, raises unholy hell with the cops, his insurance company, and eventually our hero, Sam Levitt. Sam has a checkered past and an unfixed broken nose, which as his girlfriend reflects, saves him from being handsome. He’s gone straight after some criminal – but never violent! – activities, and hires out as an investigator.
The trail leads to the Bordeaux region of France, and Sam teams up with the lovely Sophie and her cousin Phillippe to track down the purloined goods. After the action takes us to France, the book begins to read like a travelogue through the wine-producing regions there, with acknowledgements to all the high-end wines from each region. The investigation proceeds gently, as always in Mr. Mayle’s books, and Sam proves that he has a real knack for this detecting business. The conclusion strikes me as an odd combination of facile and abrupt, and could have used fleshing-out. Just me, though.
It’s no wonder that the French people have made Mr. Mayle a Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur. Every time he writes about France, I want to go back. His books are delectable introductions to that beautiful country and its beguiling people. You don’t need to be a Francophile to enjoy Mr. Mayle’s books, but if you make a practice of reading them, you’ll place yourself in danger becoming one. Take this up for a light, merry read.