Winemaker Detective Mystery 4:
Jean-Pierre Alaux & Noel Balen
Publisher: Le French Book
Publication date: 6.23.2014
Recommended by: NetGalley, Read 2 Review
Date read: 11.22.2014
Summary: When wine tasting turns to murder.
A serial killer is on the loose in Bordeaux. A local chief detective calls wine expert Benjamin Cooker to the crime scene of a brutal murder. The killer has left a strange calling card: twelve wine glasses line up in a semi-circle with the first one filled with wine. Cooker is charged with the task of identifying the fabulous grand cru and is astonished by what he learns. A second victim is found, with two glasses filled. Is the killer intentionally leaving clues about his victims and his motives? Memories are jogged about the complicated history of Bordeaux during Nazi occupation. It was a dark time: weinfuhrers ruled the wine trade, while collaborationists and paramilitary organizations spread terror throughout the region. In present-day wine country, time is running out. Will Cooker and his young assistant Virgile solve the mystery before all twelve glasses are full?
I love mysteries and had to give this one a try. Even though I have not read the first three in the series (yet!), I was quickly pulled into the life of Benjamin Cooker and his assistant, Virgile Lanssien. They are fun characters and Benjamin is an interesting "detective." I also liked Inspector Barbaroux and the fact that, when it came to something he didn't know, he was willing to call someone in to help. (I do want to go back and read the first three, not just for the mysteries, to find out more about these characters and what I have missed.) The set-up of the crime scenes really drew my attention in - a creative murder/mystery, done in a way I had not seen before. I really, until the very end, had no clue who the murderer was, which made it even more fun with the unexpected conclusion. There's a lot of information about wine and World War II throughout the book, the first something I did not know much about, the second a subject I find very interesting.
Sometimes the conversations are a tad boring, at least in the beginning of the book, but they quickly became more interesting as I got used to the way the author does his thing. There are a lot of names in this book (and not just character names, but place names too) and at first this was a little confusing (and tedious), especially since full names are used over and over, instead of referring to them by just their first name or last name after they are introduced. Here's an example: "They drove aimlessly, letting themselves be guided by signposts that inspired wine lovers to daydream: Bellegrave, Beauregard, Le Bon Pasteur, Bourngneuf-Vayron, Le Castellet, Clos des Salles, La Conseillante, La Croix Saint-Georges, Domaine de l'Eglise, L'Enclos, Franc-Maillet, Gazin, Gombaude-Guillot, Grand Beausejour, Grand Moulinet, Latour a Pomerol, Montviel, Petit Village, Pomeaux, Ratouin, Rouget, Tour Maillet, Tour Robert, Trotanoy, Vieux Chateau Certan, Vieux Maillet, Vray Croix de Gay."
The thing I think I disliked the most about the book is talk of the diet that Benjamin's wife puts him on. It really takes away from the story, in my opinion, and feels very awkward. We go back and forth between talking about murder, wine, and other things, to talk of cabbage soup and the effects it has on a body: "Benjamin, followed by a silent Virgile, stepped out of the apartment. His stomach was bloated and gassy. Elisabeth had warned him the first few days of the diet might be slightly embarrassing." That's fine if you want to talk about how Benjamin and Virgile sort of bond over this, to show how much Elisabeth cares about her husband's health, and even to give reason to Benjamin being slightly aggressive and cranky throughout the story, but the whole body reaction to the cabbage soup could have been left out.