At the end of "The Vintage Caper, "Sam had just carried off a staggering feat of derring-do in the heart of Bordeaux, infiltrating the ranks of the French elite to rescue a stolen, priceless wine collection. Read more...
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At the end of "The Vintage Caper, "Sam had just carried off a staggering feat of derring-do in the heart of Bordeaux, infiltrating the ranks of the French elite to rescue a stolen, priceless wine collection. With the questionable legality of the adventure--and the threat of some very powerful enemies --Sam thought it'd be a while before he returned to France, especially with the charms of the beautiful Elena Morales to keep him in Los Angeles.
But when the immensely wealthy Francis Reboul--the victim of Sam's last heist but someone who knows talent when he sees it--asks our hero to take a job in Marseille, it's impossible for Sam and Elena to resist the possibility of further excitement . . . to say nothing of the pleasures of the region. Soon the two are enjoying the coastal sunshine and the delectable food and wine for which Marseille is known. Yet as a competition over Marseille's valuable waterfront grows more hotly disputed, Sam, representing Reboul, finds himself in the middle of an increasingly intrigue-ridden and dangerous real-estate grab, with thuggish gangsters on one side and sharklike developers on the other.
Will Sam survive this caper unscathed? Will he live to enjoy another bowl of bouillabaisse? All will be revealed--with luck, savvy, and a lot of help from Sam's friends--in the novel's wonderfully satisfying climax.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-09-24
- Reviewer: Staff
Mayle (A Year in Provence) sends readers on a breezy excursion to southern France’s least appreciated city in this entertaining crime novel filled with amiable digressions into the history, cuisine, and local culture of Marseille. Los Angelino sleuth Sam Levitt returns for his second foray into the dark side of finance and real estate development in Provence’s scruffy metropolis, offering breezy opinions on bouillabaisse, the countryside, and the region’s centuries-old distrust of Parisians, amid talk of fine wines and underhanded deals. Sam and his girlfriend, Elena, insinuate themselves into a scheme to give their billionaire client, Francois Reboul, familiar to fans of Mayle’s The Vintage Caper, a leg up in the proposed waterfront development, sidestepping the decades-long enmity of Jerome Patrimonio, head of the selection committee and Reboul’s bitter rival. It’s a genial, lighthearted piece of skullduggery that wends its way forward with appealing, authentic local color, until the main competitor for the development, the brutish, one-dimensional British tycoon, Lord Wapping, ups the stakes with a bit of heavy-handed kidnapping. Mayle’s cast of fondly crafted characters mobilize the capering elements of the title as the adventure comes to a satisfactory conclusion. 100,000 announced first printing. Agent: Ernest Chapman. (Nov. 9)
Sleuthing in the south of France
Somewhere in the hinterlands, flanked by hard-boiled detective fiction on one side and cloying cozies on the other, exists a brand of mystery offering up the plot devices of, say, an Agatha Christie, but lacking the violence of, say, a Mickey Spillane. The authors eschew the cuteness of talking cats, sleuthing priests or nosy B&B proprietors, crafting instead a canny group of protagonists who survive primarily by their wits. Peter Mayle slots neatly into this category with his latest foray into the world of suspense, The Marseille Caper. Rarely has the tone of a novel been better set with a first sentence: “Shock has a chilling effect, particularly when it takes the form of an unexpected meeting with a man from whom you have recently stolen three million dollars’ worth of wine.” Now, unrepentant insurance investigator/wine thief Sam Levitt faces the daunting proposition of having to work in some unsavory capacity for the very individual he so recently ripped off. Hijinks ensue (big time!), all set against the atmospheric backdrop of Mayle’s beloved Provence. Engaging and entertaining from its opening sentence, The Marseille Caper is do-not-miss fun!
DANGER AND DECEPTION
Imagine a Zen koan-spouting Sam Spade, transported magically across time and space to the modern-day China/North Korea border—a setting easily rivaling Depression-era San Francisco in terms of noir. Then, you will begin to get an idea of what’s in store in James Church’s latest Inspector O adventure, A Drop of Chinese Blood. Until now, O has plied his trade—espionage—in his native North Korea. This time out, O is in a nearby Chinese border town, the guest of his nephew Bing, a minor Chinese functionary deeply embroiled in the politics of the region. The introduction of the beautiful and dangerous Madame Fang into Bing’s life threatens the status quo, and her subsequent abrupt disappearance gives every indication of upending his apple cart completely. Reluctantly, the ostensibly retired Inspector O agrees to intercede on behalf of his hapless nephew—or is he acting in his own interests entirely? The Mysterious East is never mysterious-er than in Church’s novels, and his latest raises a rarely opened window on the inscrutable and hopelessly intertwined relationships of two of Asia’s most closed societies.
Plucky half-Inuit, half-CFA (“comes from away”) Edie Kiglatuk returns to the printed page in M.J. McGrath’s second Arctic thriller, The Boy in the Snow. Far afield from her native Ellesmere Island, Edie is on assignment in Alaska, serving as support staff for a dogsled team running in the fabled Iditarod race. She is a believer in the “old ways,” and when she is confronted by a bear on a remote stretch of snowy road she takes it as an omen; within minutes she stumbles upon the body of a frozen infant, decked out in silken wraps and ensconced in a tiny coffin. She reports her findings to the police, naturally, but early on she gets the distinct impression that the fundamentalist Christian officer assigned to the case would like nothing more than to railroad a certain contentious religious cult member for the crime. Easily the equal of its predecessor (2011’s White Heat), The Boy in the Snow is a tautly plotted, truly satisfying suspense novel. One small caveat: It helps to read these books in order, as there are a number of references to earlier events.
TOP PICK IN MYSTERY
One thing I really look forward to at this gig is killer (so to speak) debut novels. It’s a rare debut indeed that gets named Top Pick in Mystery, but that’s the case with David Mark’s suspenseful police procedural, The Dark Winter. The book offers up an exceptionally unusual premise: A killer seems to be targeting sole survivors of various tragedies, killing them in the way they “should have” died the first time around. A young African genocide escapee is brutally stabbed in her church; an elderly man who survived the sinking of a trawler many years ago is forcibly jettisoned from the deck of a supertanker—and these are but the beginning. Early on, Scottish cop Aector (pronounced like “Hector” with an opening phlegmy cough supplanting the “H”) McAvoy thinks he has uncovered the common thread, but there is precious little hard evidence to support his theory. Meanwhile, events both at home and at the station hint at a distinctly checkered past for our hero, leaving both his superiors and the reader wondering if he has the capability to stand up against such a formidable opponent. English critics have compared David Mark to the likes of Val McDermid and Ian Rankin. My prediction: It will not be long until new voices in the genre are hailed as the “next David Mark.”