Monday, December 1, 2014

REVIEW: Cognac Conspiracies

Winemaker Detective Mystery 5:
Cognac Conspiracies
Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noel Balen

Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Le French Book
Publication date: 2.18.2015
Pages: 148

Recommended by: NetGalley, Read 2 Review
Date read: 11.22.2014

Summary: The heirs to one of the oldest Cognac estates in France face a hostile takeover by foreign investors.  Renowned wine expert Benjamin Cooker is called in to audit the books.  In what he thought was a sleepy provincial town, he is stonewalled, crosses paths with his first love, and stands up to high-level state officials keen on controlling the buyout.  Meanwhile, irresistible Virgile mingles with the local population until a drowning changes the stakes.


I did not enjoy this one as much as I did the previous one.  Mainly because of how much Benjamin Cooker changes when he runs into his first love at a little bistro in Cognac.  Well, even his attitude before that.  He doesn't seem to want to do this job, from the very beginning, before he even met the people involved, and pretty much left everything up to his assistant.  That he runs into his old flame unexpectedly is interesting and you learn a lot more about his character, but the fact that she isn't wearing a bra while gardening when he arrives at her home for tea (plus the other times her breasts are mentioned) and the sexual tension is not necessary and turned me off of the character, especially since he's married and lies to his assistant about meeting up with her.  This is made worse because he is very moody in this one, without the excuse of a cabbage soup diet.  Jealous, rude, cantankerous.  This is not the guy I liked in the last book.  

There was a lot of sexuality in this one, so much so that it distracted from the mystery and the murder.  I felt like the murder was an afterthought, a side story.  The story is more about two women using their sexuality and bodies to get what they want, and a jealous married man who behaved badly - even during very important parts, we had to hear about him looking at each woman with sex on his mind.

I did, however, love the descriptions of Cognac and the property held by the Lavoisiers; liked reading of the drama that happens in this family (though I could have done without the subtle - and sometimes not so subtle - rumor that she had an affair with her younger brother and, at the end, lived as husband and wife with her older brother); and found the things that we learned about the making of cognac very interesting.  

As with the last book, there are some very tedious sentences i.e. "He took in the scents of pear, apple, kirsch, cherry, strawberry, cranberry, fig, apricot, plum, quince, muscat, lemon, orange, grapefruit, citron, and Mirabelle plums.  He wafted fragrances of violent, mint, verbena, fern, moss, anise, fennel, linden, gentian, angelica, tobacco, lavender, and mushroom, along with some spicy aromas, including cinnamon, pepper, clove, ginger, nutmeg, licorice, and saffron."

I liked Pierre - he was interesting and you could really feel how much he liked what he did, liked creating and experimenting with the product.  I liked the friendship he began with Virgile, but not the innuendoes that it was more than just a close friendship between two people who were interested in the same kind of work.

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