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Review: Peter Mayle features Marseille, cuisine and a murder plot in his latest novel

This book cover image released by Alfred A. Knopf shows

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This book cover image released by Alfred A. Knopf shows "The Corsican Caper," by Peter Mayle. (AP Photo/Alfred A. Knopf)

"The Corsican Caper" (Alfred A. Knopf), by Peter Mayle

Want to enjoy delicious meals in the south of France amid gorgeous scenery with many bottles of wine, particularly rose, which is favoured by Peter Mayle's characters? And with zero calories?

Then read Mayle's newest novel, "The Corsican Caper," a breezy account of an evil Russian tycoon and his plot to murder a buddy of Sam Levitt — Mayle's "master sleuth" — and Levitt's efforts to foil the plot. A lot of drinking and dining goes on while all this is played out.

"The Corsican Caper" goes for locale — most of it being Provence with some scenes in Corsica, which seems wonderfully stuck in a time warp — at least as much as plot. Don't expect riveting suspense. The way the tycoon, Oleg Vronsky, and the statuesque first mate on his yacht are introduced reminded me of Boris and Natasha from "The Bullwinkle Show" cartoon.

The novel is pleasant escapism, and you're in good company with Mayle's cast of characters. You eventually start to feel as if you're in this circle of friends who have lots of money and the time to enjoy it in and around Marseille. Meals are prominently featured in this novel by the author of "A Year in Provence."

For example, take this description of anticipating a meal in a beloved restaurant: "Your order has been taken, your first glass of wine is to hand, tantalizing whiffs come through the kitchen door each time it swings open, waiters scurry, there is the moist creak of corks being eased out of bottles, and everything is as it should be."

You can enjoy many such dining experiences with Levitt and his acquaintances, and spicing things up is the effort to prevent a homicide. And you won't go away too full.

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Andrew Selsky is the AP's regional editor for Africa. Follow him on Twitter @andrewselsky

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Online:

http://www.petermayle.com/

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