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by Peter Mayle

Pub Date: May 16th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-307-96286-7
Publisher: Knopf

A third volume in the light-as-a-bon-bon adventures of expatriate gumshoe Sam Levitt, his partner in all manners, Elena Morales, and the billionaire friend who cares more about their company and the quality of the wine than protecting his wealth.

It’s barely more than a year since we met up with the farcical detectives in Mayle’s The Marseille Caper (2012, etc.). We catch up with Levitt’s amigo Francis Reboul, looking out upon his Corscican estate, Le Pharo, and awaiting the arrival of his cherished friends. The sort of contentment Reboul enjoys often breeds jealousy, and his estate has captured the notice of an unsavory Russian tycoon named Oleg Vronsky, known to the international press as “The Barracuda.” Vronsky has set his eye firmly on Reboul’s estate and if €50 million or more won’t do the trick, well, perhaps the influence of the murderous Vicomte de Pertuis—a dark-tempered but clever real estate agent whose real name is Vincent Schwarz—can work miracles. After all, accidents happen all the time. That’s about all that can be told about another talk-heavy and action-light conflict set in the lush and luxurious surroundings of France. The truth is that, much like an Agatha Christie novel and their many copycats, readers are attracted to these books not because they are difficult or engaging but because they are richly descriptive and emotionally comforting. Sure, a hit may have been put out on the rich Reboul, but that’s no reason not to enjoy the meal to come: “Your order has been taken, your first glass of wine is in hand, tantalizing whiffs come through the kitchen door each time it swings open, waiters scurry, there is the moist creaks of corks being eased out of bottles, and everything is as it should be. You settle back in your seat, and all’s well with the world.”

Smooth as the most decadent dessert, with just as many empty calories.