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The Vintage Caper PDF, ePub eBook


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Title: The Vintage Caper
Author: Peter Mayle
Publisher: Published October 20th 2009 by Knopf Publishing Group (first published 2009)
ISBN: 9780307269010
Status : FREE Rating :
4.6 out of 5

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Set in Hollywood, Paris, Bordeaux, and Marseille, Peter Mayle’s newest and most delightful novel is filled with culinary delights, sumptuous wines, and colorful characters. It’s also a lot of fun. The story begins high above Los Angeles, at the extravagant home and equally impressive wine cellar of entertainment lawyer Danny Roth. Unfortunately, after inviting the Los Angel Set in Hollywood, Paris, Bordeaux, and Marseille, Peter Mayle’s newest and most delightful novel is filled with culinary delights, sumptuous wines, and colorful characters. It’s also a lot of fun. The story begins high above Los Angeles, at the extravagant home and equally impressive wine cellar of entertainment lawyer Danny Roth. Unfortunately, after inviting the Los Angeles Times to write an extensive profile extolling the liquid treasures of his collection, Roth finds himself the victim of a world-class wine heist. Enter Sam Levitt, former corporate lawyer, cultivated crime expert, and wine connoisseur. Called in by Roth’s insurance company, which is now saddled with a multimillion-dollar claim, Sam follows his leads—to Bordeaux and its magnificent vineyards, and to Provence to meet an eccentric billionaire collector who might possibly have an interest in the stolen wines. Along the way, bien sûr, he is joined by a beautiful and erudite French colleague, and together they navigate many a château, pausing frequently to enjoy the countryside’s abundant pleasures. The unraveling of the ingenious crime is threaded through with Mayle’s seductive rendering of France’s sensory delights—from a fine Lynch-Bages and Léoville Barton to the bouillabaisse of Marseille and the young lamb of Bordeaux. Even the most sophisticated of oenophiles will learn a thing or two from this vintage work by a beloved author.

30 review for The Vintage Caper

  1. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    This is a thin, silly little mystery by Peter Mayle, who has clearly spent so much time drinking wine in Provence that he's forgotten that mysteries normally contain some element of the mysterious. The Vintage Caper offers little mystery. What it does contain are cliches by the boatload (in case you didn't know, every woman in L.A. is gorgeous but stupid and every lawyer is an a-hole) and a story so flimsy it's ridiculous. The characters are empty and uninspired, and if you haven't figured out w This is a thin, silly little mystery by Peter Mayle, who has clearly spent so much time drinking wine in Provence that he's forgotten that mysteries normally contain some element of the mysterious. The Vintage Caper offers little mystery. What it does contain are cliches by the boatload (in case you didn't know, every woman in L.A. is gorgeous but stupid and every lawyer is an a-hole) and a story so flimsy it's ridiculous. The characters are empty and uninspired, and if you haven't figured out whodunit by like page 40, I'm worried about you. That said, there are two excellent things in this book. Wine and France. These things go a long way with me. I loved Mayle's enthusiastic descriptions of each meal the protagonists eat and the scenery in Paris, Bordeaux and Marseilles. That's what kept me reading and what made me not completely hate this book. Mayle's best? Absolutely not. A brainless vacation read? Sure. You'll probably never drink wines as fabulous and fabulously expensive as the ones described in this book, so enjoy them vicariously.

  2. 5 out of 5

    P.D.R. Lindsay

    Famous for his delightful non-fiction, particularly ‘A Year in Provence’ which was, and is, a best seller, (and a charming film with John Thaw performing to his usual brilliant best,) Peter Mayle also writes novels. Well written, easy to read and thoroughly entertaining and amusing novels like ‘Hotel Pastis’ and ‘Anything Considered’. I found them terrific reads, but my favourite was ‘Chasing Cezanne’, that is until his latest, ‘The Vintage Caper’, came out. Peter Mayle has an ease with words an Famous for his delightful non-fiction, particularly ‘A Year in Provence’ which was, and is, a best seller, (and a charming film with John Thaw performing to his usual brilliant best,) Peter Mayle also writes novels. Well written, easy to read and thoroughly entertaining and amusing novels like ‘Hotel Pastis’ and ‘Anything Considered’. I found them terrific reads, but my favourite was ‘Chasing Cezanne’, that is until his latest, ‘The Vintage Caper’, came out. Peter Mayle has an ease with words and a lovely dry wit, very understated, in an intelligent English style. His novels are also funny. I tell all the grumpy library patrons who complain bitterly that there is nothing to read these days except books stuffed full of too much sex, violence, and weird creatures, that Peter Mayle is just what they need. They usually agree. ‘The Vintage Caper’ involves wine. Wealthy, nouveau riche, ostentatious and thoroughly loathsome American, Danny Roth boasts of his fabulous collection of the creme de la creme of French wines in a snobbish magazine. Some weeks later the pick of these vintages vanishes from his locked and guarded wine cellar. The insurance company, desperate not to pay the nearly three million US dollars the wine was insured for, seek an investigator who knows wine, and who doesn’t mind taking a few risks. Enter Sam Levitt, once a corporate lawyer, then a corporate criminal, with a remarkable knowledge of wine, and all the shady deals corporations, and people, get up to. He soon tracks the wine to France, but how is he to recover it? I’m not going to spoil the plot, but what happens is hilarious and quite brilliant. If you are tired of depressing reads or can’t stomach more mash, serial killer, or vampire novels, get hold of a copy of ‘The Vintage Caper’. You won’t regret reading it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rhonda

    This book, from the author of A Year in Provence and A Good Year (with Russell Crowe driving a Smart Car in France, who could resist the movie?) is a delightful little escapist read about wine. It covers the gamut too, with wine snobs and wine collectors but it always elevates wine to the place it needs to be: being enjoyed in good company without posturing. There are so many wonderful meals associated, I feel as though I gained ten pounds just reading this. Still it is a quick read and absolute This book, from the author of A Year in Provence and A Good Year (with Russell Crowe driving a Smart Car in France, who could resist the movie?) is a delightful little escapist read about wine. It covers the gamut too, with wine snobs and wine collectors but it always elevates wine to the place it needs to be: being enjoyed in good company without posturing. There are so many wonderful meals associated, I feel as though I gained ten pounds just reading this. Still it is a quick read and absolutely delightful for anyone who enjoys wine regions, especially in Bordeaux and Provence. Mayle's writing has always been delightful, but before this one, the complete story was sometimes cobbled together out of these gorgeous vignettes about wine life. The pieces were always fun but you sometimes left not believing that it worked as a whole. This one works all the way through. I’m not suggesting that this is Faulkner, but at least the guy knows which Bordeaux vintages were good and how lovely a Batard-Montrachet, a gorgeous white Burgundy of the highest order, is drunk with a friend. This time it fits together quite nicely without sacrificing the background about the wine and the food.

  4. 4 out of 5

    salinthebay

    Fluff! This takes an explanation because I loved Mayle's Provance series. when a friend passed this book on to me, while vacationing in Southern California, I thought I would give it a try. But, I returned promptly before finishing it. Perhaps it was the LA, California setting where this non-caper takes place, that left me wondering about concepts of warped reality. I thought his character development was stiff and silly, leaving no mystery or thought provoking challange. Suggestion: Always stic Fluff! This takes an explanation because I loved Mayle's Provance series. when a friend passed this book on to me, while vacationing in Southern California, I thought I would give it a try. But, I returned promptly before finishing it. Perhaps it was the LA, California setting where this non-caper takes place, that left me wondering about concepts of warped reality. I thought his character development was stiff and silly, leaving no mystery or thought provoking challange. Suggestion: Always stick to what one does best in life - in Peter Mayle's case, concentrate on those descriptions of the French culture and ambience. OK,... and wine!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Josiphine/Tessa

    This book was okay. The characters were shallow and predictable and the mystery wasn't actually a mystery--there was only one suspect and everything was set up from the beginning. This is not the worst book in the world but there are many better ones.

  6. 5 out of 5

    John

    A light-hearted caper that seemed to me to get a bit bogged down after a while (our hero arrives in Paris and we get a chapter's worth of tourist guide) and thereafter seemed never quite able to unbog itself. A vile Hollywood lawyer, after engineering a major newspaper feature on his wine collection so that he can be snooty to his rich pals, is rewarded by the heisting soon afterwards of millions of bucks' worth of his best bottles. The insurance company brings in crook-turned-PI Sam Levitt to in A light-hearted caper that seemed to me to get a bit bogged down after a while (our hero arrives in Paris and we get a chapter's worth of tourist guide) and thereafter seemed never quite able to unbog itself. A vile Hollywood lawyer, after engineering a major newspaper feature on his wine collection so that he can be snooty to his rich pals, is rewarded by the heisting soon afterwards of millions of bucks' worth of his best bottles. The insurance company brings in crook-turned-PI Sam Levitt to investigate, and he travels to Paris and then Marseille in search of the fugitive hooch. Far too soon, Sam and his cronies -- lovely divorcee Sophie Costes of the insurance company's Bordeaux branch, and her louche journalist cousin Philippe -- discover what seems to be the vino in question, but then there's the long and somewhat dull process of establishing that these really are the stolen bottles. Throughout, the characters all wine-snob interminably at each other, which I'm sure must be great fun for wine-snob readers but which for a philistine like moi, who can basically tell good plonk from bad, soon became a tad tedious. The text is brightened by the occasional clever turn of phrase -- for example, Had they not known that he was in charge of [the posh wine] cellar, they would have taken him for a professor, or perhaps a poet fallen on good times. All in all, moderately good fun in a sort of sub-Carl Hiaasen way.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca McNutt

    Not a bad mystery novel, but there wasn't really anything new or overly creative about it. It's a very typical and predictable novel.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    What a fun read! I guess technically this is a mystery but it's really a joy-filled romp filled with exciting places from Beverly Hills to Paris to Bordeaux and Marseilles with interesting characters including a pompous lawyer, a patriotic billionaire and an academic winemaster - not to mention all the incredible food and drink! Danny Roth is an entertainment attorney and lover of beautiful things (hence his current trophy wife). He wants to raise his profile in Hollywood so he decides to publici What a fun read! I guess technically this is a mystery but it's really a joy-filled romp filled with exciting places from Beverly Hills to Paris to Bordeaux and Marseilles with interesting characters including a pompous lawyer, a patriotic billionaire and an academic winemaster - not to mention all the incredible food and drink! Danny Roth is an entertainment attorney and lover of beautiful things (hence his current trophy wife). He wants to raise his profile in Hollywood so he decides to publicize his multi-million dollar wine cellar. Consequently, of course, there is a wine heist! Sam Levitt is reluctantly called into the case by his former love interest Elena who works for the insurance company that holds the policy for the stolen wine. Sam has a complicated and somewhat shady past and a lavish lifestyle to maintain. He decides to take the case hoping to patch things up with Elena - and his fee - even though he really dislikes the client (but then, so does everyone). The trail leads him to France where he meets with former associates, and gets schooled on the finer points of local French cuisines. In addition to all the details that make foodies' mouths water, there are these wonderfully accurate sketches of the various characters that are quite funny without being malicious. Then there are the great cultural commentaries. If the rest of the books are written in this vein, "caper" is definitely the best catchword for these adventures. This would be a great movie!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    I love Peter Mayle's Provence books, where he details his life after moving there from England. He apparently also has a series of detective novels that focus on food and wine, a combination of two things I enjoy quite a bit, so I thought I'd give them a try. Mayle's a strong writer, and that does come through here, but the story itself was a bit silly. This follows Sam Settler, a once-thief now working as a private detective, as he tries to track down millions of dollars of stolen wine. I imagi I love Peter Mayle's Provence books, where he details his life after moving there from England. He apparently also has a series of detective novels that focus on food and wine, a combination of two things I enjoy quite a bit, so I thought I'd give them a try. Mayle's a strong writer, and that does come through here, but the story itself was a bit silly. This follows Sam Settler, a once-thief now working as a private detective, as he tries to track down millions of dollars of stolen wine. I imagine his alliterative name is a throwback to Sam Spade and the golden era of detective fiction, but that's really where the comparisons stop. My main problem with this novel is that there's just no reason at all to care. I think, in detective fiction, readers want to see the crime solved for the following reasons: Sympathy for the victim - The victim here, the wine collector, is portrayed as a complete douchbag. He's an entertainment lawyer who treats everyone around him with contempt, who values impressing others above all else. You are meant to hate him from the first page of this novel. Seeking justice for the crime - The crime itself is serious, the theft of something worth millions, but it isn't a murder. If the thief is never caught, the wine will just have a new owner, potentially even one that will appreciate it more. I supposed if you felt really strongly about wine collecting, the idea of this happening would sting, but I doubt most people would lose sleep over it. The detective's life is threatened - In many detective or crime novels, the detective's life may be at stake. They may need to solve the crime to prove themselves innocent or to bring down the criminals who may now be targeting them after getting involved. At the very least, it's a crime from the past that went unsolved and has haunted them ever since. Sam is under no pressure in this. If he's not investigating, he's just having nice dinners or sightseeing. The detective's livelihood is threatened - Most detective or crime fiction protagonists need to solve these cases in order to continue paying rent, whether that's keeping their job in the police force or just making money as a private consultant. They need to get paid. Sam Settler is independently wealthy from his previous life of crime, so he really doesn't need to solve this. He travels to France with a first class plane ticket and eats caviar multiple times. (view spoiler)[Mayle did try to get creative with the ending of this novel, but it instead just felt ridiculous. The rich man who stole the wine is a nice guy, which they determine by his reputation and having met him for five minutes, so instead of turning him in they decided to commit a crime themselves and re-steal the bottles of wine, some of which may or may not have been stolen. One of Sam's partners in the theft is a journalist, so the plan was to leave the wine somewhere and have the journalist find it through an anonymous tip, thus finding the stolen goods, returning them to their owner, taking the blame off the nice rich man, and providing a great story to publish. Not only do they put themselves at risk to protect someone they met for five minutes, but they hide the wine on land the journalist's family owns, and no one brings this up as being a bad idea. I'm assuming the sequel will take place in prison, because I don't understand how the police wouldn't make that connection. (hide spoiler)] It feels a bit weird reading someone's fiction when you know them for their non-fiction. I imagine it feels a bit like watching a friend act on stage for the first time, making it harder to see the character rather than the actor, but it didn't take too long to adjust. As I said, Mayle is a very good writer. I especially enjoyed any scene in which the characters were eating. This feels like food travel writing with a fictional plot thrown in, which I would absolutely love if it was done well. If you're the sort of person that complains about George R.R. Martin spending too much time describing food, I'd avoid this. Even though I was disappointed with the plot, I might give the next book a try. He might have just been finding his footing with this one, and I really want a detective series full of food and travel writing. Book Blog | Twitter | Instagram

  10. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Never mind that The Vintage Caper is light on caper (spoiler alert: freelance insurance investigator Sam Levitt steals back $2.3 million worth of stolen wine), completely lacks suspense (no one stops him), and except for the fingerprints on the bottles, neither the crime, nor its motive, is ever verified. Because that's not why I read Mayle. Over the rainy Thanksgiving weekend in Bar Harbor, I rushed through the copy left behind by my oenophile uncle, before my stepfather could get his hands on Never mind that The Vintage Caper is light on caper (spoiler alert: freelance insurance investigator Sam Levitt steals back $2.3 million worth of stolen wine), completely lacks suspense (no one stops him), and except for the fingerprints on the bottles, neither the crime, nor its motive, is ever verified. Because that's not why I read Mayle. Over the rainy Thanksgiving weekend in Bar Harbor, I rushed through the copy left behind by my oenophile uncle, before my stepfather could get his hands on it! Why? For the well-researched, humorous travelogue style Mayle trademarked in his breakout memoir of 1991: A Year in Provence — cheeky insidery descriptions of all pleasures French: wine, food, quirky characters, and glorious locales, preferably in Provence. Being a white wine drinker, Mayle's wine details were lost on me. But any red wine lover, or curious oenophile, should be spellbound by Sam's visits to several of the great Bordeaux châteaux in search of clues to the stolen bottles from the great vintages of premier cru ("first growth") claret (red blends) ('53 Lafite Rothschild, '61 Latour, '83 Margaux, '82 Figeac, '70 Petrus). What I will remember from this book is the explanation of the initials BCBG, used to describe Sophie Costes, Sam's French contact from the insurance company. For years, I've seen the fashion label on shoes and clothes, but never knew that it meant "bon chic, bon genre," or "good style, good attitude." A term that could easily apply to Mayle: the man who wrote about buying $1,300 hand-built shoes in London for GQ (included in "Acquired Tastes," 1993), the man who sparked the American obsession with the south of France, and who was awarded the Legion D'Honneur in 2002 for his efforts to promote France.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Iryna Khomchuk

    Пітер Мейл - це автор, який змушує читача відпочивати. Саме так: змушує. Якою б утомленою я не бралася за його книги, вже кілька десятків сторінок якимось дивним чином розслаблюють мене, відходять на задній план клопоти, зникає напруга, забуваються проблеми, і ти просто мандруєш разом із автором неперевершеною Францією, яку він палко любить, милуєшся пейзажами, насолоджуєшся сонцем, а ще - куштуєш вина та страви, заплющуєш очі від захоплення напоєм, вилизуєш тарілки до останньої краплі соусу на Пітер Мейл - це автор, який змушує читача відпочивати. Саме так: змушує. Якою б утомленою я не бралася за його книги, вже кілька десятків сторінок якимось дивним чином розслаблюють мене, відходять на задній план клопоти, зникає напруга, забуваються проблеми, і ти просто мандруєш разом із автором неперевершеною Францією, яку він палко любить, милуєшся пейзажами, насолоджуєшся сонцем, а ще - куштуєш вина та страви, заплющуєш очі від захоплення напоєм, вилизуєш тарілки до останньої краплі соусу на них і... просто стаєш іншою. Втім, цей роман дещо не схожий на книги автора у стилі "Рік у Провансі". Це - детектив. І детектив, мушу сказати, посередньої якості - як детектив, звісно))) А от як книга для повного й абсолютного відпочинку, це - те що треба. Ненав'язливий сюжет, мінімум психологізму (який я так ціную в хороших детективах, але тут це було б зайвим), цікаві вродливі герої і, звісно, Франція! Яка у романі Франція! Сонячна (бо ж Марсель), казкова (бо - Марсель же!), смачна (який же Марсель без рибних страв?) і хмільна (бо вино, та ще й якого гатунку!). Коротше, читайте Пітера Мейла, якщо відчуваєте, що вам час у відпустку. Ви там побуваєте, навіть якщо шеф не підпише заяви, а квитки до Франції будуть не по кишені))

  12. 5 out of 5

    Julie Christine

    If you expect anything more of this than light caper and heavy gastronomy, you haven't done your homework. Mayle writes with no other purpose than to entertain and to wave the tri-color with unabashed enthusiasm. For a Francophile who loves reading about food and wine almost as much as she does consuming it, this was a pleasant lark. Plot? Bah. Character development? Snort. Believability? Oh, honestly! Who would waste time in the south of France looking for the real world? A world to which I now If you expect anything more of this than light caper and heavy gastronomy, you haven't done your homework. Mayle writes with no other purpose than to entertain and to wave the tri-color with unabashed enthusiasm. For a Francophile who loves reading about food and wine almost as much as she does consuming it, this was a pleasant lark. Plot? Bah. Character development? Snort. Believability? Oh, honestly! Who would waste time in the south of France looking for the real world? A world to which I now return, totally homesick for Provence, craving bouillabaisse and hoping someday for the chance to tipple a glass of d'Yquem...

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kwoomac

    I always enjoy my trip to France when I read one of Peter Mayles' books. They are filled with descriptions of the local food and wine, in this case of Marseille. To me, the story is almost incidental. Just tell me all about the food and I'm all set. If I must mention the storyline, our hero Sam is hired to find some very expensive wine stolen from a collector in L.A. So, off the France he goes. Story, food, story, wine, more story, more food, more story, more wine. Delicious.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Gina

    I'm not really a mystery person but this story was cute and entertaining. The descriptions of Marseilles and the French countryside were glorious.....and all that food and wine.....ooh la la! This is the second of Mayle's books I've read/listened to and they really are worth checking out, especially if you love France, food and wine. The ending was fairly predictable, so a light read at best but still a fun trip to France.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kerri

    Just okay. I was hopeful for more intrigue or a surprise twist, but this book is not that deep. If you want a plain fluffy read, this will do.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    Yes, it was light and fluffy. It was also smooth and easy, no jarring notes. It would make a fun old fashioned movie with Cary Grant and Audry Hepburn as the main characters.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    This book was horribly and unrepentantly pretentious. It was also boring and completely predictable. I'm probably not the target demographic for this book because I don't have millions of dollars and I have never purchased a bottle of wine upwards of twenty dollars. But there is not a single relatable character in this book. In fact, all the characters are rather flat. Danny Roth is a celebrity lawyer with a nice home in Hollywood where he cultivates a wine cellar worth millions of dollars. Not c This book was horribly and unrepentantly pretentious. It was also boring and completely predictable. I'm probably not the target demographic for this book because I don't have millions of dollars and I have never purchased a bottle of wine upwards of twenty dollars. But there is not a single relatable character in this book. In fact, all the characters are rather flat. Danny Roth is a celebrity lawyer with a nice home in Hollywood where he cultivates a wine cellar worth millions of dollars. Not content to only showing his cellar off to the half dozen visitors he gets to his home per year, he requests that the LA Times do a piece featuring him and his wine cellar. In the piece, he brilliantly describes most of his collection. Not surprisingly, 3 million dollars worth of wine gets stolen from his wine cellar while he's off hobnobbing in Aspen. And if that description of the first few chapters doesn't instantly turn you off to the book, read on. Of course, Mr. Roth, disappointed that the police are not frantically investigating this robbery, calls his insurance to see if he can get paid the worth of the wine. The insurance company does not want to pay out millions of dollars, so they recruit Sam Levitt, ex-lawyer turned ex-con, to see if he can figure out what happened to the wine. Naturally, Sam's search leads him to France where he spends the majority of the time eating in French restaurants and drinking French wine while putting everything on the insurance company's tab. He meets up with a French insurance agent from their French office and they begin searching out clues. They are lead to a multibillionaire's home. They suspect he may have stolen the wine. But how to get into a billionaire's home, you ask? Simple. Pretend to be writing a book about the greatest privately owned wine cellars in the world. You will get immediate and almost unrestricted access to the wine cellar. And then, when you want to check the bottles for prints, just take the guy who runs the cellar out for dinner. Then one person can check for prints while more people eat on the insurance company's dime. Once you find out the prints are what you need, you know you need to get the wine back. But the billionaire is just so nice! And so is the guy who runs the cellar. We can't implicate them in this crime that they absolutely committed. Instead, we'll steal the wine out of the cellar, once again getting the sommelier out of the way by taking him to dinner. We'll put the stolen wine into cases and take them in a rented van to an abandoned farmhouse conveniently owned by one of the people in the story. Then we'll leave the wine in a safe, public place and have our journalist friend discover its whereabouts thanks to an anonymous tip and the wine will go back home. Seriously, that's the whole book. 223 pages summarized for you here in this review. Every idea the characters came up with worked without a hitch. And their ideas were pretty dumb, let's be honest. If I was a billionaire, you better believe I would be investigating anyone who claimed to be writing a book before I let them into my wine cellar. The whole thing was just cheesy and stupid. And pointless. I will never read a book by this author again. I will, however, relish a glass of wine from the $5 bottle I have currently awaiting me in the wine rack. Relish it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Madhulika Liddle

    Danny Roth, a highly successful, wealthy—and unpleasant—celebrity lawyer in Los Angeles, has one of California’s most enviable wine cellars: carefully picked, jealously hoarded, worth a few million. Until a newspaper interview, complete with photographs, brings Roth’s wine collection to the notice of the world—including some thieves, who, with the connivance of Roth’s illegal servant, make off with the cream of Roth’s collection. $3 million worth of the most coveted vintages from Bordeaux, vanis Danny Roth, a highly successful, wealthy—and unpleasant—celebrity lawyer in Los Angeles, has one of California’s most enviable wine cellars: carefully picked, jealously hoarded, worth a few million. Until a newspaper interview, complete with photographs, brings Roth’s wine collection to the notice of the world—including some thieves, who, with the connivance of Roth’s illegal servant, make off with the cream of Roth’s collection. $3 million worth of the most coveted vintages from Bordeaux, vanished into thin air. Roth hounds his insurance agency, and his agent Elena Morales resorts to the old ploy of setting a thief to catch a thief: she contacts her once-lover, Sam Levitt, who was also once a thief but is now on the side of the law. More appropriately, he is a connoisseur of wines, a man who knows his Lafite from his Latour. What follows is the account of how Sam goes to Paris, and then to Marseille, to the source of the wine. Accompanied by Elena’s French contact, Sophie, he sets about finding out where Roth’s wine has gone. Interesting? No, not really. This is far too tepid, too linear and flat a plot to sustain a book. The sleuthing is very straightforward, with no surprises to make it suspenseful. All that makes for a good detective story—red herrings, a line-up of suspects to choose from, sudden twists—are missing. Except for a couple of characters (Sophie’s cousin Philippe is one), nobody’s really memorable or even interesting: Sam, despite being the protagonist, is singularly bland, as is Sophie. The romance angle is hard to believe and seems forced. Worse, too, considering Mayle’s other books. The descriptions of Paris, Marseille, and the Bordeaux countryside, while they’re well-written, aren’t woven very well into the fabric of the story. (On the plus side, his descriptions of food are spot on: I wished there had been more of them). I hadn’t even heard of Peter Mayle until a couple of years ago, when my sister gave me—as a birthday gift—A Year in Provence. I loved the book, every last bit of it, so I went searching for more Mayle. Within a month, I’d bought another of his non-fiction books, and borrowed my sister’s copies of the books she owned. His writing, I thought, was addictive: witty, the descriptions of food and drink simply mouthwatering, each book the sort you could devour in one sitting. That was why I was eager to read The Vintage Caper. Sadly, this taste of Mayle’s fiction hasn’t left me wanting to read more. I shall go back to Toujours Provence or one of his other non-fiction books.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    The Vintage Caper by Peter Mayle Alfred A Knopf Publisher, Copyright 2009 Let me start off by saying I am a fan of Peter Mayle’s work so this is slightly, alright an unabashedly biased review. Now that the transparency has been established, The Vintage Caper is an excellent read. It was perfect for a Snow storm day this past weekend, where as the inches of snow accumulated on the ground, I was safely ensconced in the goings on of Sam Levitt and a his friends from Los Angles to the south of France, The Vintage Caper by Peter Mayle Alfred A Knopf Publisher, Copyright 2009 Let me start off by saying I am a fan of Peter Mayle’s work so this is slightly, alright an unabashedly biased review. Now that the transparency has been established, The Vintage Caper is an excellent read. It was perfect for a Snow storm day this past weekend, where as the inches of snow accumulated on the ground, I was safely ensconced in the goings on of Sam Levitt and a his friends from Los Angles to the south of France, from the refinement of the Chateau Marmont to one of the finest cellars (wine) in the world the tale was expertly paced and once again made me determined to live a life as remarkable as any of the protagonists that Mr. Mayle has created. From the food, the wine, the friendships, the conversations, down to the sunsets I found myself enraptured in the joys of living albit as seen through the eyes of these characters. The book’s one shortcoming is in its length, it is far to short at only 223 pages in length. I raise a glass, hoping the author has many more adventures in store for Sam Levitt and his friends.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    Sometimes it takes a thief to catch a thief, and Sam Levitt’s the man for the job. Called in by an LA insurance company desperate to avoid paying the claim, Sam goes to France to discover who stole that multimillion dollar wine stash. Because he knows a lot of big time crooks from his former life, it doesn’t take long for Sam to home in on a likely suspect in an international playboy who resides in Marseille, of all places. Proving that he did it is another problem altogether. The word “caper” in Sometimes it takes a thief to catch a thief, and Sam Levitt’s the man for the job. Called in by an LA insurance company desperate to avoid paying the claim, Sam goes to France to discover who stole that multimillion dollar wine stash. Because he knows a lot of big time crooks from his former life, it doesn’t take long for Sam to home in on a likely suspect in an international playboy who resides in Marseille, of all places. Proving that he did it is another problem altogether. The word “caper” in the title is an unambiguous tip-off to the sort of book this is. Light and humorous, with enough suspense to keep the reader guessing, this is a story to be enjoyed, not analyzed. What Mayle does best is convey the essence of the best of French living (i.e. eating and drinking), with on-the-money sketches of the regions in which he sets his plots, and his characters are quirky and likable. Vintage has a nice little twist on the final page. I challenge anyone to resist having a glass or two of Bordeaux while reading about Sam’s exploits.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alistair

    Unless you love the author or enjoy reading about France, wine and good food, give this book a miss. The title of the book is a misnomer...."Vintage" when talking about wine is reserved for the best and "Caper" often means something is done that is exciting or interesting. None of these words represents what is in the novel. It is boring, no mystery, no caper, no daring do, bland characters, who are not well developed. They just float from breakfast to lunch to dinner and their dialogue is poor. Unless you love the author or enjoy reading about France, wine and good food, give this book a miss. The title of the book is a misnomer...."Vintage" when talking about wine is reserved for the best and "Caper" often means something is done that is exciting or interesting. None of these words represents what is in the novel. It is boring, no mystery, no caper, no daring do, bland characters, who are not well developed. They just float from breakfast to lunch to dinner and their dialogue is poor. Never is there any feeling that they are in any danger and the fact that a potential romantic angle was missed between two of the main characters did little to help the plot along. What was good as always in the descriptive narrative of food and location, anyone remotely familar with the author is well aware that this is Mayle's forte......and it is for this reason that I made it through this rather disappointing book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Do not read this when you are hungry!!! The food descriptions are mouth-watering and if you are a oenophile, you may our yourself a glass while enjoying a light read. When I realized that a friend had let me borrow a book which was the second in a series, I had to get this one out of the library and read first. Sam Leavitt is a reformed (well sort of) thief and now working with the police on occasion. He is a wine connoisseur and is called in on an insurance investigation of a theft of 3 million Do not read this when you are hungry!!! The food descriptions are mouth-watering and if you are a oenophile, you may our yourself a glass while enjoying a light read. When I realized that a friend had let me borrow a book which was the second in a series, I had to get this one out of the library and read first. Sam Leavitt is a reformed (well sort of) thief and now working with the police on occasion. He is a wine connoisseur and is called in on an insurance investigation of a theft of 3 million dollars worth of expensive wines. His lead takes him from L.A. to the south of France where the fun begins as he seeks the stolen wine and enjoys the wine and gastronomic delights of the French. Theft apparently is in the eye of the beholder, for one notorious thief puts it, he arranges a change of ownership for his clients. HA! On to the next caper!!!!!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    I must have lived in France in a previous life as I have to say that I really enjoyed the setting of the different places in France, the food and most of all, the wine! The author lives there and knows of what he speaks, and it shows. Not much imagination is needed to transport me to that mellow countryside with its vineyards, local population and small cafes along the way. What better place to set this fun mystery? I found the process the protagonists took to be interesting, methodical and a bi I must have lived in France in a previous life as I have to say that I really enjoyed the setting of the different places in France, the food and most of all, the wine! The author lives there and knows of what he speaks, and it shows. Not much imagination is needed to transport me to that mellow countryside with its vineyards, local population and small cafes along the way. What better place to set this fun mystery? I found the process the protagonists took to be interesting, methodical and a bit on the tense side. Along the way I got to learn a little bit about different wines and their vintages (plus prices). And though the mystery was solved in a satisfactory way, I didn't think the 'bad' guys were nasty at all. No violence was used and to those exclusive rich, just another game to be played. Loved it! When does my plane leave??

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    This is ridiculous. If this is any reflection of the cruise company that recommended this novel prior to a trip to Bordeaux then we should consider cancelling our trip. It begins with a shallow, affluent Hollywood character with every stereotype of what a billionaire jerk might be. Then it goes to similar description and character in Paris, Bordeaux, and Marsalis. Women are objectified on both sides of the Atlantic, valued only for their legs and successful plastic surgery. They are referred to This is ridiculous. If this is any reflection of the cruise company that recommended this novel prior to a trip to Bordeaux then we should consider cancelling our trip. It begins with a shallow, affluent Hollywood character with every stereotype of what a billionaire jerk might be. Then it goes to similar description and character in Paris, Bordeaux, and Marsalis. Women are objectified on both sides of the Atlantic, valued only for their legs and successful plastic surgery. They are referred to as "girls" for Petes sake. Place descriptions are cheap and banal, not even worthy of brochure descriptions distributed by travel companies. And there is no mystery or suspense one might expect from a book with "caper" in the title.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Les Brown

    Not sure what to make of this book. I've loved Peter's past books so I picked this up and jumped into right away with anticipation. ****SPOILERS********* I came away from it disappointed. I felt that perhaps Peter was a bit lazy with this book. I realize that some of the characters were being re-introduce from previous books, but the character development was very weak. The so called mystery was solved way to easy and neat. In some regards I felt that the only purpose of this novel was to talk ab Not sure what to make of this book. I've loved Peter's past books so I picked this up and jumped into right away with anticipation. ****SPOILERS********* I came away from it disappointed. I felt that perhaps Peter was a bit lazy with this book. I realize that some of the characters were being re-introduce from previous books, but the character development was very weak. The so called mystery was solved way to easy and neat. In some regards I felt that the only purpose of this novel was to talk about French wine and food. Not that I didn't mind that. The book at least made me hungry & thirsty. Cheers, LB

  26. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Meh. I really enjoyed the memoirs that Mayle has written about restoring an old French farmhouse and discovering life in the south of France. But his novels and mysteries really drain a lot of the charm out of his writing. He skims over the amenities, barely mentioning the pleasures of the food or the landscape. Much of what remains comes across as culinary name dropping, just listing the vintages of the wines the narrator enjoys. I've heard that one of my other favorite food writers is turning Meh. I really enjoyed the memoirs that Mayle has written about restoring an old French farmhouse and discovering life in the south of France. But his novels and mysteries really drain a lot of the charm out of his writing. He skims over the amenities, barely mentioning the pleasures of the food or the landscape. Much of what remains comes across as culinary name dropping, just listing the vintages of the wines the narrator enjoys. I've heard that one of my other favorite food writers is turning from memoir to fiction later this year. Ruth Reichl's next book is going to be a novel, and I'm looking forward to seeing how she negotiates this transition.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This was a really light mystery, but it was exactly what I was in the mood for. I'm a fan of Peter Mayle so I was familiar with his style and knew what to expect. I suppose the mystery is pretty easy to figure out, but I liked it anyway. There is a bit of romance in the novel, but the way this part unfolded surprised me. The descriptions of food and wine just made me want to run out and eat French food accompanied by the perfect glass of wine. At the end I can say from experience that the book i This was a really light mystery, but it was exactly what I was in the mood for. I'm a fan of Peter Mayle so I was familiar with his style and knew what to expect. I suppose the mystery is pretty easy to figure out, but I liked it anyway. There is a bit of romance in the novel, but the way this part unfolded surprised me. The descriptions of food and wine just made me want to run out and eat French food accompanied by the perfect glass of wine. At the end I can say from experience that the book is much better with a glass of good wine in your hand and a little plate of cheese and crackers by your side.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Wren

    Detective fiction with a difference from the author who single handedly is purported to have ruined Provence. Mayle knows how to work a stereotype; French women are beautiful and dress well, his detective has a 'past' but his writing outshines his trite story. It was a guilty pleasure to read crime fiction that had absolutely no gore or slasher porn, no swearing and had a slightly socio-political background. An enjoyable summer read, light and like a good rose, leaves one without a headache. The Detective fiction with a difference from the author who single handedly is purported to have ruined Provence. Mayle knows how to work a stereotype; French women are beautiful and dress well, his detective has a 'past' but his writing outshines his trite story. It was a guilty pleasure to read crime fiction that had absolutely no gore or slasher porn, no swearing and had a slightly socio-political background. An enjoyable summer read, light and like a good rose, leaves one without a headache. There was a half-way decent twist to the story and, as usual, his descriptions are wonderful. Perfect for the beach.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia

    I really enjoyed the first few chapters, but then it got bogged down in the details of fabulous meals and show-offy wine one-upmanship — without irony or even awareness. After a while, I just couldn't stand to read another exquisitely detailed description of another exquisite meal (always with little barbs thrown in about what cultural barbarians the Americans are) with endless snobby, "Only three people in the world even have HEARD of this wine" comments. It made me feel like the author had way I really enjoyed the first few chapters, but then it got bogged down in the details of fabulous meals and show-offy wine one-upmanship — without irony or even awareness. After a while, I just couldn't stand to read another exquisitely detailed description of another exquisite meal (always with little barbs thrown in about what cultural barbarians the Americans are) with endless snobby, "Only three people in the world even have HEARD of this wine" comments. It made me feel like the author had way too much money and way too much time on his hands. And was wasting both.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Amy Reade

    This was a great, light-hearted story that I enjoyed simply because it was fun to read. The word "Caper" in the title suggested to me that it was not going to be a hard-boiled mystery, so I wasn't expecting one. What I was expecting was a story with a puzzle and maybe a little danger, and I got exactly what I was looking for. I learned some new French phrases and some French geography, and though I consider myself a oenophile, I learned that I still have a lot to learn. I will definitely be chec This was a great, light-hearted story that I enjoyed simply because it was fun to read. The word "Caper" in the title suggested to me that it was not going to be a hard-boiled mystery, so I wasn't expecting one. What I was expecting was a story with a puzzle and maybe a little danger, and I got exactly what I was looking for. I learned some new French phrases and some French geography, and though I consider myself a oenophile, I learned that I still have a lot to learn. I will definitely be checking out the rest of Peter Mayle's books.

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