The theft and black-market sale of million-dollar Impressionist artworks fails to animate this slapdash and unrewarding...



The theft and black-market sale of million-dollar Impressionist artworks fails to animate this slapdash and unrewarding fourth novel from Provence-meister Mayle (Anything Considered, 1996, etc.) The first ten pages arouse expectations of a delightful roman É clef with its portrait of a celebrity decorating editor who works for a Condâ Nast--ish empire. Camilla is so sharply etched (imagine a combination of Anna Wintour and Tina Brown) that it's a letdown to realize that the main character is actually the photographer Andrâ Kelly, Camilla's favorite until he happens to take an incriminating snap of a Câzanne being mysteriously spirited out of a shuttered Cote d'Azur mansion. All too soon we know the score: After Camilla sets up status-hungry owners of masterpieces for photo shoots, her oily companion, the financier Rudolph Holtz, arranges to have the best painting from each collection stolen and replaced with a forgery; Holtz then sells the original to a reclusive Japanese or Middle Eastern collector. Echoing the words of amateur detectives from Nancy Drew to Tom Swift (""I know it's none of my business, but I can't seem to let it alone""), the not-too-smart Andrâ joins forces with Lulu, his cafâ au lait photo rep and love interest, and Cyrus, a tweedy, refined, food-obsessed art dealer. The dilatory sleuths waddle from restaurant to restaurant spouting culinary digressions to an ever-fascinated Lulu. (Mayle also spends lots of time describing airports and airline meals in the tone of one who's just discovered something of grave importance.) As for plot, the introduction of a hired assassin sets the table for a big explosion and a final scramble around Cap Ferrat, with everything conducted at a geriatric pace--perhaps as befits those who've dined and drunk too well and too often. It might make an entertaining cartoon (The Pink Panther in Provence?), but there's not much of Mayle's trademark wit, energy, or attention to detail in evidence here.

Pub Date: June 5, 1997


Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1997