by Sandra Murphy
Enjoy some wine related mysteries for your New Year’s Eve reading-Full Bodied Murder: A Rose Avenue Wine Club Mystery by Christine E. Blum, The Vineyard Victims: A Wine Country Mystery by Ellen Crosby, and A Case of Syrah, Syrah: A Wine Country Mystery by Nancy Parra. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 3 books, along with links you can use to purchase them.
Full Bodied Murder: A Rose Avenue Wine Club Mystery by Christine E. Blum
Review by Sandra Murphy
New Yorker Annie Hall (Halsey) moves to the West Coast where things are certainly different than in the Big Apple. For instance, the neighbors are welcoming, most of them anyway, and nosy for sure. On the other hand, there’s wine, so that’s a plus.
Marisol lives next door. She’s the typical neighborhood busybody, up on all the latest news whether people want it known or not. And she’s not above a little petty revenge like feeding birds right next to a neighbor’s driveway—so the birds “decorate” the offending neighbor’s car.
Sally introduced herself when Halsey first looked at the house. Halsey had second thoughts about buying, but as soon as Sally mentioned the Rose Avenue Wine Club, Halsey was ready to ink the contract.
Halsey walks her Lab, Bardot, around the neighborhood as a way of meeting the neighbors. Big trash day, when everyone puts their discards at the curb, also offers a lot of information. On Wednesday, Bardot and Halsey head for their first wine club meeting, held at Peggy’s. Halsey forgot to check the house number before leaving and Bardot isn’t inclined to turn around. There’s a house with the front door open, must be the one. But it’s not. Halsey calls out and enters, Bardot bolts for the back door and the next thing you know, Halsey’s discovered a dead body—Rosa. What a way to introduce yourself to the neighbors, with lights, sirens and a murder.
The police are suspicious since Halsey is the only stranger around, discounting the fact that people rarely murder someone they’ve never met, especially while out walking the dog. Maybe it would help to snoop around a little, just to clear her name. One thing leads to another, including a frozen yogurt shop, a mysterious man, his Russian girlfriend, a bag lady who seemingly lives on cashing in recycled wine bottles, a dog trainer, and a software project for the Coast Guard.
This is the first in a new series that promises to be a good one. Readers will learn about wine, software, search and rescue training for dogs, life on the West Coast, and the importance of good neighbors. All add to the story, never taking attention away from solving the murder.
At the back of the book, Halsey has included a list of the wines the Rose Avenue Wine Club drank during their meetings. There’s also a glossary of terms so you’ll know what backbone and fat mean in wine talk. Look for “Murder Most Fermented,” coming soon.
The Vineyard Victims: A Wine Country Mystery by Ellen Crosby
Review by Sandra Murphy
Jamie Vaughn, a Virginia real estate bigwig, vineyard hobbyist, and losing Presidential candidate, is well-known and well-liked. His daughter lives with him and his second wife in a beautiful home. They seemingly have everything anybody could ever want.
When winemaker Lucy Montgomery sees Jamie driving at a high rate of speed, headed right for her, she has to aim for the ditch to avoid an accident. Jamie swerves and hits the stone pillar on Lucy’s driveway. It’s the same location where Lucy was injured in a car accident years before.
She’s able to reach the car but can’t get Jamie’s door open. He’s not helping either. A neighbor stops to help and pulls Lucy away from Jamie’s car just before it bursts into flames. Although Lucy has to admit they probably couldn’t have saved Jamie and might have been hurt themselves, she still has to wonder why the man didn’t at least try.
The motives and suspects are many, even considering how popular Jamie was. Lucy’s driveway quickly becomes a memorial site as people leave flowers, photos, and notes. While the official report says an accident, rumors fly about Jamie’s drinking and how fast he was driving. A few people question Lucy’s memory, saying her own accident years ago could have colored her version of Jamie’s crash. Was it a suicide, an accident, or something more?
Just before the neighbor arrived, Jamie had a last request. He wanted Lucy to deliver a message for him—“I’m sorry.” It’s hard to deny a dying man’s request, so she tries her best, leading Lucy deep into Jamie’s past and stirring up old grudges, hard feelings, and decades-old secrets—even some of Lucy’s.
This is book eight in the series. Lucy is a complex character. She runs the winery, is well-known and respected in the community, has friends and family plus a fiancé. She’s walked with a limp ever since her own accident but now may have the opportunity to change that, if she dares. With each book, she develops into a character readers would love to meet, especially over a glass of wine.
There are wine and grape growing facts scattered throughout the books without distracting from the mystery which is full of plot and subplots, guaranteed to entertain and puzzle readers to the last page.
A Case of Syrah, Syrah: A Wine Country Mystery by Nancy Parra
Review by Sandra Murphy
Taylor O’Brian lives with her Aunt Jemma at a winery where she’s set up her own business and can’t wait to get started. Off the Beaten Path Wine Country Tours will take a small group of clients to hidden gems in the area, like parks for hikes and then to a local winery. The first group consists of Laura, Taylor’s yoga teacher, and some of her master class students.
Things are off to a rocky start when Taylor’s kicked out of yoga class for being late—again. Still, the excursion is on. During the hike, Laura walks with Taylor and explains how she can help Taylor build her business. Since this is day one, Taylor thinks it’s too early to expand and too early to criticize.
Laura goes back to the lead position while Taylor stays with the slower walkers so no one gets left behind. Laura’s husband, Dan, also drops back to talk Taylor into signing up for their classes. He’s more forceful than Laura had been.
When the group arrives at the picnic area, Laura is not with the rest. Dan goes back up the trail one way, Taylor the other. Taylor’s puppy is along, and she’s the one to alert to Laura’s body at the foot of a cliff. Although the 911 operator tells Taylor to stay where she is, Dan insists on sliding down to see if he can help Laura. Taylor goes along. By the time the paramedics arrive, both Taylor and Dan have blood on their hands and clothes.
Finding out who the killer is turns into a matter of who was where when and how to prove it. The suspects are pretty much the other people in the group. Since they report Taylor argued with Laura, coupled with Laura kicking Taylor out of yoga class, the spotlight falls on her.
What I liked about the book is the setting in the winery. Aunt Jemma is a good character. The addition of a puppy can only be a good thing. There was more to the mystery than a first look would imply. What I didn’t like is how often Taylor put herself into dangerous situations, time after time. Her lawyer says don’t talk to anyone about this, but she does. Stay away from—she goes there. She also lets the puppy run off leash, after dark, in an area where there are coyotes and mountain lions, something pet lovers will cringe to read.
Characters often find themselves in sticky situations, but Taylor’s are all of her own making. If she can curb the urge to forge ahead without thought, this will be a good series. Parra also writes the delightful Perfect Proposals series and the Baker’s Treat mysteries.
To enter to win a copy of all 3 books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “wine,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen January 2, 2018. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
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