Thursday, December 31, 2009

Murder Uncorked

Murder Uncorked
Author: Michele Scott
Berkley, 2005
220 pages

If you're interested in wine and want a quick read, this book and series might be for you. As the first book in the Wine Lover's Mystery series. it combines sleuthing with an interesting backstory. In what could be one of the most hilarious book openers I've read this year, main character Nikki Sands - former actress and current waitress in Los Angeles - is introduced via a restaurant "scene" involving handsome Derek Malveaux and his catty date. Nikki impresses Derek with her knowledge of wine and suggestions for pairings, and that leads to a job opportunity in Napa Valley, where Derek runs a successful vineyard and winery.

Unfortunately for Nikki, just after she arrives, the master vintner is found dead in the vineyards. Another mysterious murder occurs just days later. Nikki finds herself caught up in the investigations, and it doesn't help that she once played a cop in a short-lived TV series that (to her chagrin) too many people remember.

An interesting ensemble of characters (including Derek's half brother Simon, his stepmother, ex-wife, a migrant worker, and a tabloid-like reporter) provide numerous opportunities for paths and red herrings. The scene where Nikki finds out "whodunnit" is tense, and probably my favorite part of the book. I had a hard time with some of the details: why would Nikki just take off to Wine Country on a whim without talking to her Aunt first? (you have to read the book to understand this). The relationship between Nikki and Derek seemed unrealistic (male employer pouring his heart out to female employee he's only known for a few days? Doubt it.) And there are a couple of very annoying editing errors, which most likely would only be noticed by me. Nikki's sad childhood story makes up for any flaws in her adult personality, as she is clearly a survivor.

Murder Uncorked was a fast and entertaining read, and you will get a short education on wine and wine pairings. I enjoyed that part enough to order the second and third books in the series, which I'm sure you'll be reading about here someday.