Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Notably missing from this latest diet-wrecking literary canap is Mayle's ("Anything Considered") fixation on the truffle. In another conspicuous break with form, Mayle opens the action in New York rather than his beloved Provence. But readers hungry for French atmosphere should not lose heart. By the end of the first chapter, Paris-born, New York-based photographer Andr Kelly is winging his way to the Riviera on assignment for Camilla Jameson Porter, the sexy and ruthless editor of Decorating Quarterly magazine. In France, the young hero witnesses the trusted majordomo of a wealthy Frenchman loading what appears to be a priceless Czanne into a tradesman's van. After a suspicious meeting with the painting's owner, Andr consults Cyrus Pine, an aging expert in rare art (and the pleasures of board and bedroom) who also smells a rat. The two are joined by Lucy, Andr's sensual, Barbados-born agent, and the sybaritic crusaders dash from the Bahamas back to France in search of an enigmatic forger who may be able to unravel the mystery. Up against a sinister plot to flood the world with bogus masterpieces, the trio gourmandize their way across the South of France, staying just one jump ahead of an assassin. Blending rare art, treachery and steamy romance with ambiance and haute cuisine, Mayle serves up even warmed-over plot and character as blithely as if they were chefs d'oeuvre. (June)
Photographer Andr Kelly is on assignment in the South of France when he decides to spend his free day in Cap Ferrat visiting some former clients, the Denoyers. As he arrives, he witnesses Claude, the Denoyers' hired man, loading a precious Czanne into the back of a beat-up plumber's van. Deciding that something is amiss, Andr photographs the event and thus becomes involved in a wild escapade to track down the painting. When he explains the situation to Lucy, his agent and soon-to-be love interest, they decide that they need some expert help and call in Cyrus, a wealthy art dealer, who smells a scam. Add in a scoundrelly art dealer and his daffy lover, an art forger, and a former French Legionnaire, and the trail to the lost Czanne becomes a comedy of errors. Along the way, there are vibrant descriptions of Paris, Provence, Cap Ferrat, and of course mouth-watering French meals and wine. Part travelog and part art mystery caper, this new tale from Mayle, the author who put Provence on the map, is a thoroughly enjoyable romp through the international art world. Recommended for all fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/97.]Robin Nesbitt, Columbus Metropolitan Lib., Ohio
The theft and black-market sale of million-dollar Impressionist artworks fails to animate this slapdash and unrewarding fourth novel from Provence-meister Mayle ("Anything Considered," 1996, etc.)
The first ten pages arouse expectations of a delightful roman à clef with its portrait of a celebrity decorating editor who works for a Condé Nastish empire. Camilla is so sharply etched (imagine a combination of Anna Wintour and Tina Brown) that it's a letdown to realize that the main character is actually the photographer André Kelly, Camilla's favorite until he happens to take an incriminating snap of a Cézanne being mysteriously spirited out of a shuttered Cote d`Azur mansion. All too soon we know the score: After Camilla sets up status-hungry owners of masterpieces for photo shoots, her oily companion, the financier Rudolph Holtz, arranges to have the best painting from each collection stolen and replaced with a forgery; Holtz then sells the original to a reclusive Japanese or Middle Eastern collector. Echoing the words of amateur detectives from Nancy Drew to Tom Swift ("I know it's none of my business, but I can't seem to let it alone"), the not- too-smart André joins forces with Lulu, his café au lait photo rep and love interest, and Cyrus, a tweedy, refined, food-obsessed art dealer. The dilatory sleuths waddle from restaurant to restaurant spouting culinary digressions to an ever-fascinated Lulu. (Mayle also spends lots of time describing airports and airline meals in the tone of one who's just discovered something of grave importance.) As for plot, the introduction of a hired assassin sets the table for a big explosion and a final scramble around Cap Ferrat, with everything conducted at a geriatric paceperhaps as befits those who've dined and drunk too well and too often.
It might make an entertaining cartoon (The Pink Panther in Provence?), but there's not much of Mayle's trademark wit, energy, or attention to detail in evidence here.