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by Peter Mayle

Pub Date: Oct. 30th, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-307-26901-0
Publisher: Knopf

The celebrated author (A Good Year, 2004, etc.) introduces a wine-savvy sleuth who traces an L.A. cellar heist back to France.

Light, slight and very tidy, Mayle’s sixth novel wastes no time on superfluous characters or subplots. Its pared-down story line features vain Hollywood entertainment lawyer Danny Roth, whose pride in his $3 million wine collection leads to a boastful article about it in the L.A. Times and then its theft. Attractive insurance agent Elena Morales hires ex-boyfriend Sam Levitt, a hunk with a nose for fine vintages, to track it down. The trail leads to Marseille via Paris and Bordeaux, affording Mayle many opportunities for travel guide–type asides: “High on the Corniche Kennedy, the restaurant offers an irresistible combination of fresh fish, fresh air and a glittering view of the Frioul islands.” Levitt’s companion is another insurance agent, attractive Sophie Costes, whose presence makes Elena jealous. Sam, suspecting billionaire tycoon and wine-collector Francis Reboul of the theft, pretends to be a publisher working on a book on private cellars, gains access to Reboul’s vast collection, discovers Roth’s fingerprints on some of the bottles and steals the stolen wine back. No hitches, no glitches, and Sam gets the girl too.

The term “easy read” was surely invented for this amiable but scorchingly efficient amusement that comes with the added benefit of menu and wine-list recommendations.