By: Ellen Crosby
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication Date: July 2012
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: August 25, 2012
The wine business is tough, in fact, it can be a real killer. Paul Noble, a well-known wine merchant found out just how deadly the business can be when his life came to an abrupt end. By the time Lucie Montgomery found him hanging in his art studio, Paul was deader than a shriveled-up grape. With a bottle of Lucie's fine Sauvignon on the floor near Paul, Lucie took it upon herself to solve the murder before the police got around to deciding whether Paul's death was suicide or murder.
This is the sixth book in the "Wine Country Mystery series," and as this one opens, Lucie is on the phone with Paul, a wine merchant who is about as well liked as a pimple on prom night. He has a monopoly on buying, and selling, wine and if you don't deal with Paul, you don't sell your wine. Lucie knows this and thus is understandably upset when Paul calls to tell her he can no longer pay the agreed upon price for her Cabernet Sauvignon. Paul says it's the economy, sorry, it's not open to negotiation. Lucie is devastated as this price cut will seriously impact her business, a wine business that was already teetering. Paul gives Lucie two days to "think it over" and she decides to pay him a personal call to try and talk him out of his price cut. But when she arrives at his place, she finds him hanging inside his studio, quite dead, with a bottle of her Sauvignon Blanc on the floor beneath him, along with a glass with an unusual figure drawn on it. Lucie does the right thing and calls the police. They arrive shortly thereafter and take over.
Lucie, of course, can't stop thinking about Paul's death and so when she and her grandfather, who has come for a brief visit all the way from Paris, are invited to a party, the talk is naturally about recent events. The party's host, Charles Thiessman, seems to know more about Paul and his past then he is letting on while his wife Juliette, who once had a thing for Lucie's grandfather, appears to still be taken by the elderly man. When Charles invites Lucie and her grandfather to his private lodge to discuss "things," a tale of mystery, brilliant scientists, a secret society, and two untimely deaths emerges. Could Paul's death be related to that secret society? At Charles' urging, Lucie heads out to California to investigate.
Soon Lucie is entangled in an odd web of mystery about long forgotten events surrounding a group of once close friends. As she digs further, the story takes several unexpected turns, keeping the reader guessing as to the motives and guilty party. In California, Lucie is reunited with old beau Quinn Santori that adds a nice blend of romance (can Quinn be faithful to one woman?) to the story. This series has developed nicely with a great cast of central characters and some pretty interesting new people who grace the pages. While some cozy mysteries get a bit too goofy and unbelievable for many readers, this one stays true to form and casts a story that is fun and realistic. Can you solve the mystery before Lucie does? It's doubtful, but give it a try!
Quill says: Grab your best bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, sit by the pool, and enjoy this latest story in Ellen Crosby's wine mystery series. You won't be disappointed.