on August 14, 2001
If you like fast-moving and exciting action mixed with jet set characters, haute cuisine, and treachery among the fine art set in the South of France, then this book is for you. Peter Mayle has written another fun-filled novel that takes you on a merry ride from New York to the South of France. Characters include an honest and fast thinking photographer and his adorable assistant, a devilish magazine editor, and various amusing and interesting characters from a world most of us donï¿½t know but are all too glad to visit for a time. The famous chefs who flavor the novel with mouth-watering menus and taste- tempting dishes make reading a savory experience as well as filling the reader with a desire to hop on the first plane to finer eating. Descriptions of restaurants from out of the way inns in the French countryside to the trendiest in New York City make the book a vicariou culinary experience par excellence. As for mystery and mayhem, there are fine art thieves and their accomplices, the relentless hit men who do their best to throttle the photographer and his string of good guys. All in all, this is a book that is fun to read, hard to put down, and that will make you long for sunny vacations with a bit of flare.
When Provence is his provenance Peter Mayle serves a 5-star feast. Toujours Provence and A Year In Provence were delicious.
Mayle's sixth presentation, Chasing Cezanne, is more of a satisfying deli sandwich, thick with slices of New York, Paris and the Riviera plus a side order of chicanery garnished with romance.
The Big Apple is where photographer Andre Kelly hangs his long lens when he isn't in lush locales photographing estates and their art treasures for a trendy design magazine, Decorating Quarterly. Nourished by Evian water and greed, his editor, Camilla Porter, is as sleek as her publication. Avarice is the bond she shares with one of her paramours, an art trader.
While on a photo shoot in the south of France, Andre drops by a billionaire's villa hoping to renew acquaintance with the magnate's attractively receptive daughter. Since the mansion is shuttered for the season, he is surprised to see what appears to be the family Cezanne leave in a "dirty blue Renault" plumber's van. Unable to forget this puzzling scene, Andre contacts an upscale gallery owner who deals in Impressionists, the patrician Cyrus Pine. (Think Peter O'Toole "in a gray tweed suit of European cut, a pale-blue shirt, and a butter-colored silk bow tie.") Having learned at Eton that "coming top" or winning is the only way to go, the dealer smells skullduggery and a whopping commission.
While Cyrus does some investigating, Andre warms himself during Manhattan's dank winter with his agent, Lucy, a Barbadian beauty sporting a mop of black curls and skin color "halfway between chocolate and honey."
The potage thickens when Andre's apartment is ransacked, and it is learned that the painting now hanging in the Cap Ferrat villa is a skillful forgery.
Deciding the copyist is Franzen, a corpulent Dutch forger living in Paris, Andre, Cyrus and Lucy head for the City of Light, where an elevator is "of that particular Gallic size which encourages close personal relationships."
Mayle is, of course, the most congenial of travel guides as the trio romps down the Boulevard Saint-Germain, up the Eiffel Tower and along the Seine. He's as urbanely witty as ever and still turns an intoxicating phrase: "...the sound of the cork being drawn, no louder than a sudden exhalation of breath, was followed by the whisper of bubbles rising in the glass."
Less adroit when describing the murderous Paradou who stalks the trio, the author cooks up a careening chase through Cannes, Antibes and back to Cap Ferrat.
With Chasing Cezanne Mayle brings to mind an accomplished boulevardier who has mastered each glance, inflection, and compliment. He knows he can easily charm, and he does.
on November 2, 1997
Chasing Cezanne illustrates the concept of doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do. Too often people ignore the small details. If you've ever read the play Trifles by Susan Glaspell, you know the motivation for murder was covered up because people overlooked the small details. In Chasing Cezanne, Andre is unwilling to overlook the trifles he believes are out of sync with the world as he perceives it. It is this unwillingness to ignore the details that leads him to uncover a conspiracy to conceal art forgeries. Along the way, he discovers the importance of relationships in business and love. The author, Peter Mayle, doesn't slow the dialogue down with metaphorical language. His people move just as easily from one continent to another. So, if you're interested in mystery, intrigue, romance, and art, this is the book for you. It's Lawrence Sanders' McNally without the use of affectation; a grown up hero who can make decisions on his own without consulting pater or relying on alcohol to sustain him.
on July 23, 1997
Suprisingly, this is Peter Mayle's most pedestrian effort. Mayle's fans, of which I consider myself one, will (and have) devoured this offering on the reputation of the author alone. Unfortunately, we will all be left hungry.
Strangely absent from "Chasing Cezanne" are all of Mayle's trademarks; captivating descriptions of wish-you-were-here settings, engaging characters, careful wit, comfortable pacing and curious, unexpected plot twists.
I quickly got the sense Mayle was intentionally trying to avoid being stereotyped as "The Author of Provence" by inserting his characters in as many places that weren't the South of France as possible. This results in disjointed flow and contrived development.
Reviews have charged Mayle of skimping on character development and dawdling on plot. I must agree. Further, the book ends as if it were written with the editor and publisher standing over Mayle's shoulder, tapping their feet as he hurredly tied together the (somewaht sloppily loosened) loose ends.
Wait for the paperback and read it on the beach next Summer.
on June 19, 1997
Food,glorious food.Paris in spring.New York,
London,the Bahamas,the south of France.Rich,
even wealthy people.Worldly, not so rich but
chic people,ambitious,greedy and silly
characters inhabit this novel of air puff plots,
inept thieves and clumsy small timers involved
in world class art theft.
Andre does photo shoots for glossy magazines.He's
single,lives in Manhattan,loves food and Paris,
adores the south of France where on an
assignment at Cap Ferrat he becomes witness to
what looks like the theft of a $30 million
Cezanne.He captures the scene with his camera,
and upon his return to New York gets involved
in the chase for the painting,what happened,
who did it, why, for whom?
This is a cute story with a Hollywood ending.
The real painting is rescued, but only after
Andre and the good guys survive a failed car crash
set-up,a bomb attack and being trailed by an assassin. Sprinkled throughout are countless
lunches and dinners in glamorous settings.
Potentially fast paced, the story gets bogged down
by distractions and cliches about food,people,
habits and it's easy to lose interest. There are
comparisons between French and American food,
discussions about airline food and French vs.
American lifestyles.Should we care? The characters
are also brought down by silly diction, Camilla, a
high-powered editor, uses "sweetie" in addressing
everyone and the English gentleman (surprise)
uses "dear boy" dozens of times.And the like.
It's also dated and makes the main character
too naive for his other worldliness, for example
in describing what his girl friend wears one
morning sitting on the bed, "The T-shirt was just
long enough to keep her out of jail." Hm. Finally,
other outdated, even curious comments about New York include,"The streets of Manhattan's upper
East Side tend to confirm the view of those who
see the city as a frontier on the brink of war.
Apartment buildings are garrisons,..." This I
havn't heard anywhere since the 70's.
If you can ignore the cliches, the fawning
descriptions of French food and the dated ideas
and dialog of the characters, it's possible to
discover a breezy,fun travel story with sunny
images of Mediterreanean life pleasing enough
to make you want to visit.
on March 9, 2000
a disappointment. while the descriptions of place and food were wonderful, as always with mayle, the plot involving a real Cezanne painting and not one, but two, copies, never made sense to me. if someone else can explain the plot to me, i'd appreciate it. the owner of the Cezanne arranges to have it removed from his house and copied. Holtz was going to arrange to sell the copy as the original? and return the original to the owner along with some of the money? was Pine also going to arrange to sell a copy? or the original? was there ever a second copy? what happened, or was going to happen, to it? what role did the magazine editor play in all this? in addition to not being able to understand people's motives, i too thought that many of the plot developments were improbable. the characters repeatedly failed to recognize the obvious and they kept secrets from one another for no apparent reason. in retrospect, a most unsatisfying read.
on March 11, 2003
As a fan of Peter Mayle, I can't tell you how let down I was by this extremely slight, jetsetting-but-going-nowhere novel. I enjoyed the lighthearted A Year in Provence and Hotel Pastis, so I wasn't expected War and Peace by a long shot. But this (perhaps mercifully) short novel does nothing to evoke the landscape, whet the reader's appetite for fine food and gracious living, or even hint at character development. Too many stock characters (the dashing photographer, the take-no-prisoners editor, the perfectly pressed art dealer, the starry-eyed first-time-in-Paris ingenue). And the quick pacing leads to a disappointing denouement, which is -- sacre bleu! -- even more lackluster than the author's description of the colorful art which is purportedly being "chased." The extra star is only for my fondness of Mayle's other books: Otherwise, I'd only give it one. Two dreary thumbs down.
on January 29, 2002
I have to admit, I enjoy Peter Mayle's nonfiction musings on Provence more than his novels. His travel books are classics; his novels are all lighthearted, fun highjinks that put a smile on the face of all but the most cynical. No, are aren't undying literature, but sometimes undying literature is just not what I want. This wonderful little book is a very welcome diversion from the stress of the real world, a sweet and charming "time out," a carefree litte romp through the south of France.
Mayle's writing in Chasing Cezanne is every bit as good as in his classic, "A Year in Provence." His descriptions are just as perfect and he has captured the essence of Provence in an extraordinarily enjoyable manner.
If you're looking for lighthearted highjinks with a fine mixture of mayhem and fun, then this might be the book for you.
on May 27, 2001
I've enjoyed several of Mayle's other books, but this one is an amiable clunker. The mystery plot is buried under the guise of globetrotting and eating good food. The book would have read much better without the dumb chase scenes (the "hit man" following our narrator) and with more meals. After all, it's mood, ambience and food that Mayle specializes in, not characterization and plot, both of which are sorely lacking.
This book is so mediocre that it's not even a good beach read. You won't care much what happens in this "art" mystery because the plot is so thrown together. One gets the feeling his editor said, "Okay, we need a book in a week." I won't hold it against Mayle since his other books are much more charming, but this one is almost totally devoid of this usual charm.
on September 24, 2002
An enjoyable book, despite its limitations. Its a raconteur's culinary romp only thinly disguised as a mystery, too busy having fun restaurant-hopping and people-watching to make much effort at anything deeper. The characters are likeable, if somewhat two-dimensional, the story line is plausible, the satire palpable. The book pokes fun at the effette artistic pretenses and materialistic snobbery of the rich and famous, while drooling over the culinary escapades their incomes allow.
What it lacks in plot-layering and tension-building, it makes up for in the upbeat tempo of the bon vivant lifestyle. I could have done without the salacious innuendos and the veiled chauvenism, but it was mild enough, and in the end I just gave in to the gaiete de coeur.