Book reviews

The Marseille Caper by Peter Mayle

The Marseille Caper by Peter Mayle - Credit: Archant

Books and Music by Zoë McIntyre

THE MARSEILLE CAPER Peter Mayle, Quercus, £16.99

The author of A Year in Provence returns with a new romp through the south of France, this time making a foray into the dark side of real estate in Marseille. The narrative reunites readers with roguish sleuth Sam Levitt who, in his previous adventure The Vintage Caper, had duped French tycoon Francis Reboul out of a stolen wine collection. So Sam is astounded when Reboul tracks him down in San Francisco with a job opportunity that is too good to turn down. The work takes Sam back to Provence where, accompanied by his partner Elena, he becomes embroiled in the wheeler-dealing of Marseille’s real estate market and incurs the wrath of the port’s most dangerous property magnates. With appealing characters and a breezy plot, Mayle’s seductive digressions into the sensory delights of Marseille will please his fans and new readers.

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Alan Forrest, Quercus, £9.99

On a bleak day in 1840, Parisians took to the streets to witness the return of Napoléon’s remains from Saint-Helena, the remote island in the South Atlantic where the exiled emperor had died nearly 20 years before. Even in death, Napoléon still had a powerful influence and the procession sent shock waves through France. Forrest, a professor of modern history at York University, tells how this son of a Corsican lawyer rose to become the most powerful figure in Europe. Rather than dwell on military exploits, Forrest focuses on Napoléon’s strengths as a mastermind of manipulation and what we would now call spin, giving a concise yet revealing insight into his psyche.

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Fredrik Nath, Fingerpress Ltd, £7.99

After the death of his son in the Spanish Civil War, widowed schoolteacher François Dufy leads a lonely existence in German-occupied Aquitaine, seeking solace in bottles of Bergerac. However, Dufy’s life is transformed after he rescues a Jewish girl from the Nazis, an act that leads him to launch a personal crusade against the invaders. Joining the dangerous world of the partisans, Dufy meets a beautiful British agent and embarks on a hazardous journey of love, loss and redemption. Nath, a full-time neuro-surgeon as well as a novelist, returns to the setting and themes of his previous thriller, The Cyclist, and has produced an original wartime tale with the right balance of tension and pathos.

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Olivia Ruiz

Le Calme et la Tempête

Carcassonne-born pop princess Olivia Ruiz rose to stardom in 2002 as a contestant on the French reality music show Star Academy. Since then, she has released three albums, won Female Artist of the Year at the Victoires de la Musique and enjoyed long runs at the top of French charts. Her new album has a more mature tone than its jazzy predecessors, but showcases Ruiz’s strong vocals and songwriting talents. As the title suggests, the album incorporates a spectrum of emotions and moods, from cool refrains to heartfelt ballads.

Les Ogres de Barback

La Fabrique à Chansons

This audacious swing band consists of four multi-talented siblings who juggle a medley of instruments, including accordion, trombone, guitar, flute, flugelhorn and spinet. Sidestepping every musical pigeonhole, they produce effervescent melodies mingling bal-musette, gipsy jive, rock and world music. Since debuting in 1994, the tireless Ogres have performed around 2,000 concerts and sold 600,000 records. The new album, recorded during their 2011 tour, captures all the vitality of their live performances.

Various Artists

Mélodie Française

Some of the leading figures on today’s French-speaking classical music scene feature in this lavishly produced six-CD box set of song recitals. Soprano Sandrine Piau, contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux and baritone Stéphane Degout are among the singers, and featured composers include Gabriel Fauré, Claude Debussy, Ernest Chausson, Francis Poulenc, Henri Duparc and Reynaldo Hahn. It makes a perfect release to dip into at your leisure.