The Corsican Caper
(Sam Levitt #3)
By Peter Mayle
Billionaire Francis Reboul is taking in the view at his coastal estate, awaiting the arrival of vacationing friends Sam Levitt and Elena Morales, when he spies a massive yacht whose passengers seem a little too interested in his property. The yacht belongs to rapacious Russian tycoon Oleg Vronsky, who, for his own purposes, will stop at nothing to obtain Reboul’s villa. When Reboul refuses to sell, Vronsky’s methods quickly turn unsavory. Now it’s up to Sam—he’s saved Reboul’s neck before—to negotiate with an underworld of mercenaries and hit men, not to mention the Corsican mafia, to prevent his friend from becoming a victim of Vronsky’s “Russian diplomacy.”
The dire situation doesn’t stop Sam and Elena from attending glamorous fêtes where the wines and starlets alike sparkle, and enjoying sumptuous meals—from multicourse revelations to understated delights like the first asparagus of the season, on which one must make a wish. But as Sam’s sleuthing draws him closer to the truth of Vronsky’s schemes, he realizes Reboul might not be the only one unable to enjoy the good life for long.
Brimming with entertaining twists, sparkling scenery, and mouthwatering gustatory interludes as only Peter Mayle can write them, The Corsican Caper is a one-way ticket to pleasure, Provençal style.
I’ve read Peter Mayle’s other two books starring Sam Levitt – The Vintage Caper and The Marseilles Caper – and looked forward to Sam’s next adventure in sunny Southern France. Unfortunately, The Corsican Caper felt very slight, both in length and premise.
Sam and his girlfriend Elena returning to Marseilles to visit their friend Francis Reboul, a wealthy businessman with a large wine cellar. Everything begins as an idyllic vacation until a ridiculously large yacht appears off the coast. From its vantage point, Russian billionaire gangster Vronsky spies Reboul’s home and covets it. He’s been living on his floating home for too long and wants a permanent residence fit for him. Reboul’s mansion is perfect.
Only thing is, Reboul won’t sell. He politely declines a realtor’s request only to find himself being harassed and followed. Reboul and Sam look into Vronsky’s background and learn that his business partners often dies from unfortunate accidents, leaving all assets to Vronsky who is always conveniently out of that particular country.
Reboul’s nefarious Corsican friends, Flo and Jo, hear of a hit on a wealthy Frenchman and discover it is Reboul. Vronsky is ready to go big in order to go to his new home Sam comes up with a plan to link Vronsky to the hit and succeeds.
There are many scenes expounding the wonderful food, per usual. Sam and Elena are on the hunt for a place of their own. All of it felt too light. The stakes don’t feel that high since it seems very impersonal and a little lame. A Russian man wants a mansion and will kill to get it. I understand the stakes are Reboul’s life so are high for him and his friends but Vronsky is no one to them until he wants the house. Maybe making the stakes more personal to Reboul would have helped with the plot.
And it ties up too quickly and neatly with no mishaps. Sam’s plan literally goes off without a hitch. Ten pages later and they are back at Reboul’s celebrating their success.
It would be a good beach read – fast and enjoyable. I hope the next installment has meatier fare for Sam Levitt to chew on.
On a side note, the cover of The Corsican Caper was a departure from the prior two installments and a throwback to Peter Mayle’s first book, A Year in Provence. (My review here.) I’m sure that was a purposeful choice but I do wonder what it was for. To link the author’s works together (much like what Susanna Kearsley’s publisher has done)? It was interesting to see the three very different covers of the Sam Levitt series as I put this last book on my shelf. All three were different from each other with The Corsican Caper looking strikingly similar to A Year in Provence. Ah, publishing.