First Line: I have always been fascinated by alchemy, though I draw the line at black magic.
When Lucie Montgomery gets a wee-hours-of-the-morning phone call telling her that her father has been killed in a hunting accident, she leaves her job and home in France to travel back to the family vineyard in Virginia as quickly as possible.
It's Lucie's first trip home since an automobile accident left her dependent on a cane. When she arrives, she sees that the family home and winery are more than a bit worse for wear since her father never seemed to find a bad business deal he didn't like. Lucie's brother Eli is also short on cash and has convinced their younger sister to sell the estate and reap rewards from the valuable ground it sits on.
Lucie doesn't want to sell-- especially when her godfather tells her that her father's death was no accident. Then her godfather dies, and Lucie is left as the sole holdout preventing the sale-- knowing that she's next in line for an "accident." The trouble is... all the prime suspects are living right on the property with her.
Having read and enjoyed Ellen Crosby's Sophie Medina mysteries, I was looking forward to reading this first book in her Wine Country series-- even if I don't like wine. I found The Merlot Murders to be every bit as intelligently written and absorbing as Multiple Exposure and Ghost Image.
Lucie Montgomery is a complex character, and the plot certainly isn't short of family dynamics with her obnoxious brother Eli, his greedy wife, and their gullible little sister. There's also a head vintner on the property whose motivations aren't very clear.
Added to the first-rate mystery are fascinating snippets of the history of wine making in Virginia. Between this series and Martin Walker's series set in France, I have a feeling that I'm going to end up being a very knowledgeable oenophobe. Crosby also gives an outline of Lucie's family history as well as the house and vineyard. This information put me firmly in Lucie's No Sale camp, but it also made me wonder why no one else in the family felt the same way.
See? Although the mystery is taken care of through the course of The Merlot Murders, I'm left with questions about Lucie and her family, and this is definitely going to make me continue reading the series. Bring on the chardonnay!
The Merlot Murders by Ellen Crosby
Scribner © 2006
eBook, 308 pages
Amateur Sleuth, #1 Wine Country mystery
Source: Purchased from Amazon