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Stolen wine in Provence

Here’s another caper from popular author

By Diane Makovsky

For The Free Lance-Star

AUTHOR Peter Mayle  has a longstanding  attachment to the Provence region of France.  Many of his popular books use the beautiful scenery and rich gastronomic creations as the foundation for his entertaining stories.  Readers can vicariously enjoy the dining experiences as well as the plot.

Mayle’s most recent book, “The Marseille Caper,” re-introduces Sam Levitt, the detective who tracked down the whereabouts of a valuable store of vintage wine that had been stolen in “The Vintage Caper.” In that story,  he simplified the process by “reclaiming” the wine and returning it to the original owner, without involving the local authorities.  “The Marseille Caper” involves some of the same characters.

Curiously, the man who was tricked into giving Sam access to the stolen wine, Francis Reboul, contacts Sam with a proposal.  Because Reboul sees himself as a canny businessman, the fact that Sam was able to fool him has convinced Reboul that Sam is the right man to help him in a prospective deal.

Reboul wants to enter a bid to develop a portion of the Marseille coastline.  Unfortunately, he has a history with the chairman of the development committee that could compromise his chance of success.  Reboul’s scheme is to use Sam as his front-man; Sam will present the proposal as if it’s his own and act as the primary contact during negotiations.  Once selected, Reboul plans to step in as the project’s director.

Sam agrees to the lucrative plan and Reboul immediately arranges for Sam and his girlfriend, Elena Morales, to fly to Marseille and begin preparations for the proposal.  Elena is aware of Reboul’s reputation; she works for the insurance company that hired Sam to investigate the original theft of the wine.

Sam’s familiarity with the area is a definite plus, as he reconnects with a journalist friend, revisits picturesque sites and enjoys distinctive cuisine.  Reboul provides fabulous accommodations in a home he owns and a seemingly unlimited budget for dining and entertainment.

The plan progresses smoothly until the competition heats up between the three companies vying for the development contract. It becomes clear to Sam that the committee making the decision is corrupt.  He becomes even more intent on exposing the corruption when it threatens Elena and his local friends.

“The Marseille Caper” will appeal to readers on many levels.  True to form, Mayle provides an interesting plot with side orders of fine wine and elegant food.  Readers can leave the table feeling well satisfied.

Diane Makovsky is a freelance reviewer in Spotsylvania County.


By Peter Mayle

(Knopf, $24, 224 pp. )


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