Review: Chasing Cezanne (Peter Mayle)

Freelance photographer Andre Kelly sees a $30 million Cezanne painting being loaded into a plumber's van in France and just can't stop worrying about it. When the owner of the painting doesn't seem to be too bothered about the incident, he gets even more suspicious. To find out what happened to the priceless painting, he takes the help of Cyrus Pine, a wealthy art dealer who immediately suspects a scam. These two, along with Kelly's girlfriend Lucy, travel across France as they investigate the whereabouts of the painting. Along the way, they have to find a master forger and escape a very determined hit man in this charming and very funny novel.

I didn't know this kind of a book existed anymore. A book in which the plot strolls along at its own pace and still manages to keep you interested. Where the good guys have enough time for three hour meals even as they try to save the world (or rather, a painting in this case). And where the descriptions of exotic places don't really annoy me (they normally do). Mayle's effortless sense of humor kept me interested throughout and the lack of a what-happens-next kind of plot never bothered me. You know right from the beginning who the bad guys are and you know that the world's going to be a happy place at the end of the story, but you just want to read it all the way through anyway.

Another thing I loved about this book is that even though the story is set in France and many of the characters are French, Mayle avoids using too many French words in the book. A mistake that many authors make is that they assume that their readers can somehow understand half a dozen European languages, thereby leaving us poor readers with little option but to either skip those lines or look up a dictionary to translate the sentences. But this book hardly ever challenges my French vocabulary, which consists of two words -- bonjour and au revoir (both of which I can't pronounce). Even when he does use a French word or phrase, Mayle finds a way to translate it without affecting the flow of the story. And for that, he's definitely earned a fan. Myself, I mean. And maybe this book isn't what I'd rate as cent percent perfect; but it's nearly there. :)

My Rating: 9/10.


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