I really enjoyed Peter Mayle's tales of his life in Provence, which I have reviewed earlier, so when I heard that he had written some mysteries, I felt they might be worth checking out - literally, from the local library. In The Vintage Caper, Mayle introduces us to former bad boy turned sleuth, Sam Levitt, "former corporate lawyer, cultivated crime expert, and wine connoisseur." A thoroughly unlikeable entertainment lawyer in Hollywood has had his most prized acquisitions stolen from his acclaimed wine collection, and Levitt's old flame, Elena, an insurance investigator calls Sam in to take advantage of his expertise and unorthodox methods in solving the heist.
As one might expect, from someone with his experiences in France, Mayle, when the tale eventually ends up in Marseilles, fills this story with wonderful bits of detail about Frenchmen, Frenchwomen, viniculture and haute cuisine. There's really not a lot of suspense, thrilling action, sex or violence here, as Sam methodically cons his way into the home and cellar of a rich and powerful local, locates the missing wine, and recovers the loot for the insurance company. No false leads to speak of, and the only red herrings to be found are at the bottom of a bowl of bouillabaisse.
A fun read for Francophiles, and I'll probably read the sequel, as well, though it's not typical mystery fare.