The Vintage Caper, by: Peter Mayle

vintage-caperThis is a fictional mystery written by the author of “A Year in Provence,” Peter Mayle. Peter Mayle was made famous by his travel writing about France. So, perhaps unsurprisingly, much of the action takes place in various cities in France. In his style, he does a magnificent job of descriptive writing about the scenery and the landscape. However, in many ways this book feels like a mystery grafted onto a travel log.

I loved “A Year in Provence,” and was excited to see Peter Mayle’s new book out on the shelves. I was keenly disappointed with the characterizations. The beginning of the book introduces several characters, none of which are particularly sympathetic, and then just drops them in subsequent chapters. Several of them merit no mention at all as the book progresses. A new set of characters, ostensibly, the main characters, are introduced, about half-way through the novel. None of these characters are developed with a great deal of detail, nor are they any more sympathetic than the first cast. No real relationships develop between them, and they feel very hollow. This makes it hard to really get into this mystery.

As for a mystery, it didn’t draw the reader in with an element of discovery. The crime is solved without any real deviations in the plot which moves inexorably towards an inevitable conclusion, making it not a real mystery page turner.

The crime is a theft of large amounts of valuable wine. Unfortunately, the interesting elements of this expensive hobby aren’t really described either, such as that some people use wine as an investment much like stocks. I would have liked to read more descriptions on the wine flavors, after all the food was described in mouth-watering detail.
That said, the descriptions are lovely, and if you’re interested in a piece of pleasant destination fiction, this is a nice read.