• Friday, February 24th, 2023

Peter Mayle, the youngest of three siblings, was born in 1939 in Brighton, Sussex, England. His father was an employee at the Foreign Office and his mother worked as a part-time beautician. Mayle was educated at Brighton College, England, then at Harrison College in Barbados, where his father was transferred by his employer.

Upon his return to England in 1957, Mayle was employed as a trainee at Shell Oil in London before working as a creative director for BBDO, the worldwide advertising agency network based in New York City. In 1974 Mayle left his job to dedicate his time to writing books and, in 1986, decided to move to the south of France, where he felt at home, enjoyed living and remained until he died in Vaugines, in Provence, France, in 2018 at the age of seventy-eight.

Mayle wrote many books for adults and children. His work has been translated into several languages and some made into television mini-series and some into films. He also wrote articles for periodicals. In 2002 the French government made him a “chevalier de la légion d’honneur” (Knight of the Legion of Honour) for his cultural contribution to France and the Francophonie.

Chasing Cézanne, which has nothing to do with the famous painter’s life or work, was published in 1997. It has an easy-to-read, fun plot, a caper story about a freelance photographer, Andre Kelly, and his adventures while chasing after a valuable Cézanne painting. It starts with Andre Kelly being sent to the south of France by the eccentric, ruthless Camilla Jameson Porter, the editor of Decorating Quarterly magazine, to photograph wealthy people’s residences and valuables.

While in the area, Kelly decides to pay his respects to the wealthy Denoyer family in their opulent villa, La Pinède, in the rich commune of Saint-Jean-Cap Ferrat on the Côte d’Azur. Kelly discovers that the Denoyers are not at home while their caretaker, Claude, is helping the driver of a dirty-blue Renault plumber van to carefully wrap a Cézanne painting and load it into the back of the van. Kelly, who always has his camera handy, takes several photographs of what he sees while standing at the locked gate and considers it very odd and intriguing.

Kelly’s curiosity is aroused by this weird occurrence and a dubious meeting with Denoyer, the painting’s owner, in the Bahamas. The chase to elucidate this mystery surrounding Cézanne’s priceless painting begins. It involves Kelly, Cyrus Pine, an old epicurean and a shrewd expert in rare art and Kelly’s girlfriend, the young, good-looking Barbadian agent, Lucy.

The reader follows Kelly in an astounding pursuit between New York, France, the Bahamas, and England on the trail of this curious affair. Kelly, Pine and Lucy soon realise that they are risking their lives by discovering a network of advanced, refined art forgery involving a great deal of money.

The story combines a network of rare art counterfeiters with glamorous, wealthy people, suspense, delicious, refined French cuisine, fashion, French tourism and romance. All are described light-heartedly with verve. It is an action story à la James Bond where the good guys win and the bad ones lose. Nevertheless, the sudden, unexpected ending was somewhat disappointing.

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Category: Book Reviews
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