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Sister Mary Murderous

Favorite genres are traditional mystery, police procedurals, espionage, Eurocrime, literary fiction and nonfiction history, especially WW2 and Cold War.  I write about crime fiction at Read Me Deadly (www.readmedeadly.com)

More of an hors d'oeuvre than an entrée

The Corsican Caper: A novel - Peter Mayle

I'm a francophile and I've read all of Peter Mayle's nonfiction books about Provence, his three Sam Levitt caper books and his other French novels Hotel PastisAnything ConsideredChasing Cezanne and A Good Year.

With his last Levitt book I joked that whenever Mayle needs some more cash to support his Provencal lifestyle, he dashes off one of these books. That quip seems not to be so much of a joke at this point. This is a very short book, more of a novella than a novel. It made me wonder if Mayle had to raise funds quickly for some urgent repairs on his villa in the Luberon.

As with the other books in the Sam Levitt series, the plot of The Corsican Caper is simple. Somebody does something threatening to a friend or acquaintance of Sam's, he and his girlfriend Elena travel from Los Angeles to Marseilles, and they and their wide circle of friends there (in both high and low places) outwit the bad guys–––in between sessions of eating plates of lovingly-described delectable food and drinking glasses of palate-pleasing wine.

As usual, Mayle manages to plug into currently popular prejudices; he chooses a Russian oligarch/thug for his villain. Billionaire Vronsky wants to acquire Sam's friend Francis Reboul's Marseilles estate and will stop at nothing to do it, despite Reboul's adamant refusal to sell. A cat-and-mouse game begins, as Vronsky plans his underhanded attack on Reboul, while Sam and his compatriots simultaneously put together a counter-plot against Vronsky.

Don't get me wrong; this is an entertaining book(let). But it will take you no time at all to read it and you'll have forgotten all about it in about as much time as it took to read. If you've read The Marseilles Caper, you will find this extremely similar––only shorter and a soupçon less charming. It's worth reading as a quick bit of fun, but I'd borrow it from the library.

Thanks to the publisher, Knopf, and Amazon's Vine program for providing an advance review copy. The Corsican Caper will be published on May 16, 2014.