When Peter Mayle passed away in 2018, I realized that I had never read any of his books; my only connection was having watched A Good Year, with Russell Crowe, when it came out. The British ex-pat wrote prolifically and with great humor about life in the south of France, most famously, A Year In Provence. I added all the Mayle titles to my wishlist on Outlook, the free audiobook service through my library.
Eventually, I worked my way to The Vintage Caper, which turned out to be the first of the four volume Sam Levitt series. The others are The Marseille Caper, The Corsican Caper, and The Diamond Caper. In French, the title of The Vintage Caper is Château l’Arnaque (sha-toe lar-nak), which means “Swindle Castle.” I have listened to all four books now and many of the characters reappear, allowing for a little more development than in a typical caper tale.
Sam Levitt is an investigator who seems to be a modern Sam Spade. All the usual tropes are there: guns, gangsters, and a beautiful gal on his arm. This is NOT high literature and the sexist banter may set your teeth on edge at times, but overall it’s a lighthearted read or listen. Along the way, Mayle drops restaurant, wine, and hotel recommendations as Levitt wrangles bad guys who have some high-class connections. It’ll make you itch to book your next trip to the sunny south of France, particularly if you are living through winter in New England!