Book Review: The Vintage Caper by Peter Mayle
I am not an oenophile. In my youth I did drink rather a lot of champagne (the cheap stuff–Andre) and in my more affluent dot.com days I sometimes enjoyed merlot (a few steps above the cheap stuff, but no pricey bottles, alas). But I never learned much about wine and these days I rarely drink any booze at all. So I’m not sure what caused me to pick up Peter Mayle’s The Vintage Caper at the 56th Street branch of the Tacoma Public Library last week. I had not read any of Mayle’s previous books and while I may have been vaguely familiar with his name from my work at the library, I can’t say that I knew much of anything about the British author who for the past twenty years has lived in and written about Provence, France.
But whatever twist of fate or providence that led me to read this book, I am quite glad that I did. The story opens on the scene of a very rich and insufferably arrogant Los Angeles attorney who is inordinately proud of his multi-million dollar wine collection who decides to arrange to have the Los Angeles Times do a feature story about his fabulous cellar, just in case there is anyone out there who does not already know how rich he is and what exquisite taste he has. The attorney is portrayed as a real jerk and the reader will most likely be almost glad when after only two short chapters, his entire wine cellar is robbed and completely cleared out while the attorney spends Christmas skiing in Aspen.
Once the crime has been committed, the story shifts to insurance investigator Sam Levitt who is hired to find the three million dollars worth of stolen wine. Levitt’s investigation leads him to travel to France and the bulk of the story takes place in that country. Mayle lovingly describes all of the food and wine consumed over a couple of week’s spent in France and skillfully moves along the mystery story as Levitt finds and steals back the stolen wine. If you are an oenophile, a foodie or a mystery buff The Vintage Caper is Highly Recommended.