Warning - spoiler for The Vintage Caper
Peter Mayle's novels read like his travel books - wonderful meals and beautiful scenery separated by clever character sketches, with a lightweight plot thrown in as a bonus. The Marseille Caper has fewer meals than usual, but Mayle makes up for it with a bit more plot than usual.
The Marseille Caper starts where The Vintage Caper left off, with Francis Reboul asking Sam Levitt how he found and returned Danny Roth's wine collection. Reboul isn't angry that his stolen goods have been illicitly returned, though. Instead, he has a job for Sam and Sam's insurance executive girlfriend, Elena Morales. Reboul is the silent investor in a company competing for the rights to develop a piece of land in Marseille, and he wants Sam to act as his front. Reboul's plan is one of three, and the icy Parisian architect doesn't offer serious competition. Lord Wapping, the vulgar turf accountant who bought a peerage (and a yacht named The Floating Pound), however, has Marseille's planning commissioner in his pocket and a pair of bodyguards who miss beating up people. What does Sam have? Well, Reboul's plan sounds good, plus he has Elena, his journalist friend Phillipe and his girlfriend Mimi, and an Englishwoman of a certain age. They're more than a match for a desperate and bankrupt thug with money. Mayle's books aren't deep, but they're vividly written and a lot of fun, and Sam, Elena, Phillipe, and Reboul are engaging characters. I'm looking forward to Mayle's next Caper.