Review - THE GRAND CRU HEIST, Jean-Pierre Alaux, Noël Balen

Review Written By
Karen Chisholm

It's hard not to become increasingly enamoured of this wonderful series of books (of which there are now 8 translated), based in the gloriously described wine regions of France, featuring the curmudgeonly, slightly arrogant, ever vigilant Benjamin Cooker, his assistant Virgile and wife Elisabeth. In THE GRAND CRU HEIST, sadly Elisabeth who is missing in action for much of the novel.

This story starts out with our renowned wine critic being bashed and robbed one night in Paris. Bad enough that the young, violent villains pinched his beloved Mercedes, but it contained his briefcase, which contained his tasting notes. A disaster of monumental proportions, outweighing the distress of his physical injuries. To recover, of course, Cooker heads to a wonderful Chateau hotel in the Tours region for rest, recuperation and wine. 

Needless to say, his path quickly crosses with that of a murderer, when two people - the companion of a flamboyant British wine lover, and the concierge of his hotel both end up dead in quick succession. This leads to much conjecture on the possible connections between the victims. Cooker and Virgile, however, soon reunited with the missing Mercedes, are heading to Cooker's dear friend, Huber de Boüard, of Château Angélus fame, who has been the victim of a series of baffling wine burglaries followed by cryptic messages from the thieves. 

The matter of murder is undoubtedly important, but the theft of valued wine stocks is also a national catastrophe as far as Cooker is concerned. But the resolution of both of these threads must be pursued in the correct manner, and the tasting and enjoying of various wine varieties along the way is of vital importance. It seems that Cooker thinks best when seated at a tasting table, or that of a much loved local eatery. 

Cooker is wonderfully ambiguous - an insufferable know it all, astute observer and solver of many problems, there's a gentle side to him in THE GRAND CRU HEIST which is most touching. His poor assistant Virgile is very often put upon, and the commentary on food, other people, surroundings and everyone else is frequently hilarious, all very much part of the fun of these books. This series has proven to be enormously entertaining, and THE GRAND CRU HEIST, a very short novel, is up there with the rest of the series. Not just because, I hasten to clarify, it's impossible to read them without a glass of something (slightly more local) in your hand.

Year of Publication
Book Number (in series)

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? 

Review Review - THE GRAND CRU HEIST, Jean-Pierre Alaux, Noël Balen
Karen Chisholm
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Blog Currently Reading - Grand Cru Heist, Jean-Pierre Alaux, Noël Balen
Karen Chisholm
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