Book Review: Grand Cru Heist by Jean-Pierre Alaux

grandcruIn another Epicurean journey in France, renowned wine critic Benjamin Cooker’s world gets turned upside down one night in Paris. He retreats to the region around Tours to recover. There a flamboyant British dandy, a spectacular blue-eyed blond, a zealous concierge and touchy local police disturb his well-deserved rest. From the Loire Valley to Bordeaux, in between a glass of Vouvray and a bottle of Saint-Émilion, the Winemaker Detective and his assistant Virgile turn PI to solve two murders and very particular heist. Who stole those bottles of grand cru classé?

Received in ebook format from Netgalley in exchange for a review.  This is the second in the series (I have yet to read the first), and it finds Benjamin driving his top end Mercedes one evening, only to be carjacked, and in hospital for over a month to recover.

He is out of sorts when he is discharged so decides to go on a short Epicurean break around the Loire valley to get his mood back. Elizabeth, his wife, agrees to let him get on with it on his own, whilst she returns to their home to look after their dog Bacchus instead.

Benjamin has some lovely food and wine (some meals and drinks expounded to great length in the novel), and comes across another wine merchant who seems to have access to some of the wines – and a car – that Benjamin covets. However, after a heavy eating and drinking session, things go awry when Morton’s companion storms out, to be found strangled the following morning. The concierge of the hotel where Benjamin is staying is found dead later the same day, hanging from a tree, the result of an apparent suicide.  Meanwhile, whole shipments of Premier/Grand Cru bottles – €100+ each – are being stolen, seemingly to order.

Despite the deaths, Benjamin is excited about life again, and starts to investigate, along with  with his assistant Virgile (who gets sent to do the boring job of picking up the stolen Mercedes from Germany).  Finally after some investigations, along with minor input from the police, the deaths and the thefts are sorted out. The story being set in the middle of winter, when little is done in the vineyards, allows for little time needed to expostulate on the day to day vine maintenance.

This is definitely a book for those who like the finer things in life (or at least like reading about them). The food and the wine and the cigars makes you want to open a Premier Cru of something lovely, sit back and enjoy a good cigar. The mysteries are secondary to the food and wine, and whilst diverting and entertaining are not the point of the story, so shouldnt be thought about too deeply. Would be interesting to see if this ever gets shown on English TV (either in the original French or a variation of same).



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