Along with his brand-new assistant Virgile Lanssien, renowned winemaker and critic Benjamin Cooker is working with the prestigious Moniales Haut-Brion to find out if their wine is being ruined due to negligence or sabotage. As the two men search the city of Bordeaux and the surrounding vineyards, readers are given a wonderful tour of this region of France.
This novella-sized book is the first in the twenty-book Winemaker Detective series that is very popular in France. As a first book, it has some opportunities to improve. Treachery in Bordeaux is long on ambiance and short on mystery.
There is little-to-no development of the mystery. No suspense, no hint of danger, no red herrings (is there no wine that goes well with herring?)-- just a simple straight line from Cooker making a decision early on in the book to his stumbling across the culprit at the end.
The book also felt a bit stiff and formal as I read it, but I think that is due more to its being a reflection of the main character than it is of the translation, with which I had no problem at all. I found Benjamin Cooker to be rather difficult to warm up to since he can easily be perceived as a more uptight, snobbish version of Felix Unger in the American television series "The Odd Couple." (In this instance Felix is a rank amateur.) Cooker is the sort of perfectionist that would drive most people mad. He agonizes over each word, each syllable of the critiques he writes because he knows how important his words are to all wine connoisseurs. The man even takes four hours to polish two pairs of shoes so the grain of the leather will be displayed properly.
What makes Treachery in Bordeaux worthwhile are its descriptions of this famous wine making region of France-- its history, its architecture, its art, as well as the descriptions of food and wine. This is when the book comes to life, and I appreciated these sections a great deal. I'm glad I read this book, but even though the series has become very popular in its native land, I am in no hurry to read more of Benjamin Cooker's exploits.
Treachery in Bordeaux by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen
Le French Book © 2012
eBook, 144 pages
Amateur Sleuth, #1 Winemaker Detective mystery
Source: Net Galley