Red mist? No, ‘Red Stream’, a first novel by Paul Tracy, which had me happily gripped over Christmas. Perhaps James Bond is missing his inner Connery and Jason Bourne hasn’t really survived Matt Damon’s departure. But there is no need to worry. A new hero is out there – Max Christian.

Max Christian is half-French and half-English – like this book: written originally in French, for the Kindle edition, and at the same time in English for the print edition, by its longstanding French-resident English author.

Max passes the Bond/Bourne test. I would like to be Max Christian. He moves around from Mendoza to Sonoma to the Barossa Valley and back to Provence – he is not a spy, but a ‘consulting wine-maker’. If your winery’s products are losing their appeal, call for Max: his superhuman powers (actually, his tasting ability) will help you to develop your own SuperTuscan. Instead of your old Chianti Classico, he can help you to make the next Tignanello.

Of course, he is a handsome 40, so far unattached – but, we discover, with a glamorous fashion designer girlfriend in Venice. This is a cinematic book – who will be the actress to play Alessandra? ‘She lay spreadeagled across the double bed, naked as usual with the mass of dark hair tumbling to the right, …’ As you do.

As a hero, Max has to battle evil – and evil ones. His Blofeld is Guy Madison, who is bidding to take over the (wine) world through his megacorp Berengaria. One of many delicious touches, this. Hamburg-Amerika Line’s Blue Riband flagship IMPERATOR (Latin for ’emperor’) was taken as war reparations after WW1 and re-named BERENGARIA. Perfect!

Max eats in evocative places – not always Daphne’s, or Les Deux Magots: sometimes we imagine a sunlit terrace with simple but delicious fare – some red mullet freshly-caught and simply grilled perhaps, but always accompanied by a wine to enjoy. Gavi di Gavi, for instance. The author has happily enjoyed his expense account in some excellent places, and through Max we are sitting with him.

There are murders, and mystery, in this fine tale. The action cuts from continent to continent: there are flashbacks: there are only actors, no real narrator. Max Christian, I salute you!

[Tracy, P.F. (2013) Red Stream, Paris, Publibook]

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