Good guy not a very sympathetic character

Everything To Lose. By Andrew Gross. William Morrow. 325 pages. $26.99.

To enjoy reading about good guys vs. bad guys, it's not enough for the reader to dislike the bad guys, the reader also has to feel enough for the good guys to want to pull for them.

The main good guy in bestselling author Andrew Gross's "Everything to Lose" is Hilary Cantor, mother of a young son with Asperger's who just lost her job. Her ex-husband isn't paying alimony or child support. All of that is pretty sympathetic, except that Cantor's life takes a scary turn when she takes $500,000 that doesn't belong to her because she can't afford her $4,600-a-month mortgage, $600-a-month utility bill, full-time housekeeper, mani-pedi and Starbucks habit and $50,000 annual tuition for the son's school. Plus she's still got her 4-carat diamond engagement ring and hasn't done anything but say "pretty please" to make her ex cough up some financial assistance.

If you can get past that, it's a decent enough book about stopping a murderous politician, but there's certainly no feel-good victorious ending.

Reviewer Carol Edwards is a freelance editor and farmer living in Marlboro County.

Mayle's latest has the essence of France

The Corsican Caper. By Peter Mayle. Knopf. 162 pages. $23.95.

Peter Mayle's work is always a delight to read. He is best known for his bestseller "A Year in Provence," a hilarious account of restoring an old French farmhouse.

"The Corsican Caper," follows a series of other Mayle capers, and once again features Sam Levitt, a former California corporate lawyer, now a white-collar crime consultant. This time, Levitt is in the south of France, near Marseille, investigating a somewhat implausible crime. But that's not the point. Rather, it's good food, wine and friends - the essence of France.

His client is the wealthy Francis Reboul, hounded by a Russian oligarch, Oleg Vronsky, whose goal is to buy Reboul's palatial villa on the coast. Eventually, Vronsky decides he must resort to drastic measures.

Mayle has written a witty, mostly gastronomic, romp exhorting the pleasures of the French countryside. Showing him to be the Francophile he is, the book describes the pleasures of good wine and food in a country restaurant, the best time of the year for asparagus, the roasted duck breast stuffed with green olives, the foie gras and rack of lamb. Bon appetit!

Reviewer Frances Monaco is a writer in Charleston.