Dying on the Vine By Aaron Elkins

Jan 11, 2014 | 2014 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze, Sandra Murphy

by Sandra Murphy

Details on how to win a copy of the book at the end of this post.

The head of a winery in Italy is debating whether or not to sell the winery. He could leave it to his son, but the oldest doesn’t have a feel for the grape, only the business. His second loves the grapes, but it would be unheard of to pass over the eldest. The youngest is a great salesman, but not a businessman. What to do? If that’s not enough, there are rumors that his wife is cheating on him–he could not stand the shame.

Each year, he takes a month long sabbatical upon doctor’s orders; the stress of the harvest would be too much. His wife drives him to a remote cabin, no phone, no visitors and only a cell phone in case of emergency. She drives on to visit friends and will pick him up at the end of the month.

This time though, it’s different–the month is up and neither husband nor wife returns to the villa. Finally, the authorities declare they are missing, presumed dead.

Gideon Oliver is known as the Skeleton Detective. He can look at the bones and tell you more about the person than if he had a long conversation with them. He’s in Italy to conduct a series of seminars for the Italian Police Department. His friend, Rocco, is part of the class and John and Marti, close friends and Gideon’s colleagues, are also part of the group.

Gideon previously met Lucca, son number two and they enjoyed each other’s company. When Lucca hears they are coming to Italy, he insists they stay in comfort at the winery’s villa.

Rocco has a cousin who is a mortician. Old bones have been found and are at his cousin’s funeral home for preparation for burial or cremation, depending on if they can find out whose bones they are. With Gideon and the whole class in tow, Rocco directs them to the funeral home.

The bones, of course, turn out to be those of the missing wife. The husband, it’s said, was cremated. How bizarre to find out you’ve been handling the skeletal remains of your host’s stepmother! How lucky to discover his father was not cremated after all.

Gideon is able to determine that she was alive although not conscious when she fell off a cliff. Months later, she was shot. Her husband was dead when his body was thrown over the cliff, but he was shot before. It’s a weird case for sure and even Gideon is afraid he’ll never know what really happened.

Suspects abound in theory, but in reality the number is limited to family and close friends. Motive could be the presumed affair, the possible sale of the winery or an old family feud.

I am usually a very fast reader, but this book slowed me down a lot. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though as I got to enjoy the Italian countryside, learn more about wine and food and meet some nice and not-so-nice characters.

There are sixteen Gideon books in the series, three Chris Norgren novels, five Lee Ofstead novels written with Christine Elkins and three thrillers. Warning: This is a series that may cause you to want every book he’s written!

To enter to win a copy of Dying on the Vine, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Vine,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen January 18, 2014. U.S. residents only.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the arch, in the land of blues, booze and shoes—St Louis, Missouri. While writing magazine articles to support her mystery book habit, she secretly polishes two mystery books of her own, hoping, someday, they will see the light of Barnes and Noble. You can also find several of Sandra’s short stories on UnTreed Reads including her new one Bananas Foster.


  1. Love everything Elkins. Sign me up, please.

  2. It’s always nice to see a new book by Aaron Elkins, and this one goes on the to-be-read list. I have always wished that he’d written more in the Chris Nordgren series, but I guess some things are not to be.

  3. Cool! Sounds really good! Thanks for wonderful reaing opportunity!

  4. We have a winner
    Lorie Ham, KRL Publisher


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