The Grand Cru Heist
by Jean-Pierre Alaux & Noël Balen
I gave this two stars
In 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?
If ever there were a book that could turn me to drink, then this would be it! Whilst the knowledge gained about the various wine regions and their produce might be considered reward enough, I was actually hoping for a good mystery story too.
At the beginning, the plot seemed to move along nicely – the famous wine critic is attacked, his beloved car is stolen and more importantly so are his notes for his next wine guide. These notes hold crucial information about the wines and the vineyards to feature in the next edition of the guide.
In his retreat he encounters what he assumes to be a like-minded individual – a connoisseur of both fine wines, cigars and classic cars. When this man’s companion is then found dead, the mystery begins to unravel. Slowly! Far too slowly.
Another body is also found, and assumed to be the murderer taking his own life. Yet, this is apparently not the case – as we later learn (much later). The connoisseur is also missing, and his classic car is seen being driven by someone else.
Before we eventually get to the bottom of this mystery, we are treated to further sub-plots about stolen wine, the recovery of his car – found in Germany, and a host of other irrelevant tales, that did not add to the story for me, but rather, left me a little bored.
In my opinion, the characters were a little two-dimensional and rather stereo-typical. The story didn’t flow – rather it trickled along – and at the end, I felt that the mystery had not been revealed or explained well to the reader, but was delivered more as a fait accompli.
However, if you’re a wine buff, then you will no doubt get more out of this book than I did.
A votre santé!