The Merlot Murders (Wine Country Mystery Series #1)

( 25 )

Overview

"Finely ladled suspense," says the Sun-Sentinel about the complex flavor of Ellen Crosby's debut mystery set in the wealthy Blue Ridge wine country of northern Virginia, where vineyard heiress Lucie Montgomery must find a killer or lose her cherished family heritage.

Leland Montgomery's death was deemed accidental, but when his daughter Lucie returns home from France, she finds the once-thriving family vineyard run down, collapsing under huge debt. Lucie's godfather warns her ...

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The Merlot Murders (Wine Country Mystery Series #1)

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Overview

"Finely ladled suspense," says the Sun-Sentinel about the complex flavor of Ellen Crosby's debut mystery set in the wealthy Blue Ridge wine country of northern Virginia, where vineyard heiress Lucie Montgomery must find a killer or lose her cherished family heritage.

Leland Montgomery's death was deemed accidental, but when his daughter Lucie returns home from France, she finds the once-thriving family vineyard run down, collapsing under huge debt. Lucie's godfather warns her that Leland's demise may have been the result of an attempt to force the sale of the vineyard. Her extravagant brother and rebellious sister are determined to sell the estate, and there's something suspicious about the vintner her father hired right before he died. When another oenophile turns up dead, asphyxiated in a tank of Merlot, Lucie — the lone holdout preventing the vineyard's sale — realizes she's next in line for an "accident." Can she trust in the proverb in vino veritas — in wine there is truth — as she attempts to survive a very bad year for Merlot?

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Like a fine wine, full-bodied, complex and satisfying." — Sun-Sentinel (South Florida)

"A neat whodunit." — The New York Times

"A terrific kickoff to what promises to be a highly satisfying new series." — Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly
Like a fine wine, Crosby's debut is complex and intricate. Lucie Montgomery, an American ex-pat who's been holed up in France for two years, returns to her family's vineyard in the Virginia countryside after the death of her father in a supposed hunting accident. Once home, Lucie discovers that the vineyard is collapsing under huge debt; her brother, Eli, has turned into a materialistic jerk; her little sister has taken up with Lucie's ex; and her godfather, Fitz, has become a lush. When, on the heels of papa Montgomery's funeral, Fitz is found dead, Lucie's suspicions are stoked. These deaths were no accident, and suspects abound. Crosby, a freelance reporter for the Washington Post, has seamlessly woven in details about wine making and interesting historical tidbits about Thomas Jefferson's (unsuccessful) efforts to establish a wine industry in early Virginia. This is a terrific kickoff to what promises to be a highly satisfying new series. (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
When her father dies under suspicious circumstances, Lucie Montgomery returns from France to Virginia, where she discovers that her greedy brother wants to sell the family vineyard and that her younger sister is sleeping with the man responsible for the car crash that left Lucie permanently disfigured and disabled. Journalist Crosby (Moscow Nights) has done her research on the wine industry in Virginia, making this fast-paced mystery a treat for those who like unusual settings. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A neglected winery, a valuable necklace and a shooting accident are tied together by greed and past indiscretions. Lucie Montgomery spent two years in France after a car accident left her with a maimed foot. After her brother Eli calls to tell her that their father has been killed in a hunting accident, she returns to their winery in Virginia, which her father neglected in order to invest in shady schemes that took all the family money. Lucie's greedy brother is eager to sell. So is her sister Mia, who's having an affair with Lucie's former lover Greg, the man responsible for her accident. Fitz, Lucie's godfather, warns her that her father was murdered by someone who is willing to go to great lengths to acquire the family estate. Fitz gives Lucie a key to a box that may hold a fabulous diamond necklace. When Fitz is found dead of carbon-dioxide poisoning, Lucie, certain he's been murdered, considers suspects among her family, her old friends and employees like the new vintner with a dubious past. While working to learn the truth and get the harvest in, Lucie barely escapes a series of deadly accidents before unmasking the killer. A fast-paced, intriguing debut that holds interest from cover to cover.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416536048
  • Publisher: Pocket Books
  • Publication date: 7/31/2007
  • Series: Wine Country Mystery Series , #1
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 427,130
  • Product dimensions: 7.40 (w) x 4.60 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Ellen Crosby

Ellen Crosby is the author of Multiple Exposure, the first book in a series featuring photojournalist Sophie Medina. She has also written six books in the Virginia wine country mystery series. A former freelance reporter for The Washington Post, Moscow correspondent for ABC Radio News, and an economist at the US Senate, Crosby lives in Virginia with her family. Learn more about her at EllenCrosby.com.

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Read an Excerpt


Chapter One

I have always been fascinated by alchemy, though I draw the line at black magic. My family owns a vineyard at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia and I am sure there is both magic and chemistry involved in transforming grapes into wine. Not as impossible as changing lead to gold, but nevertheless, no mean feat, particularly if you believe -- as I do -- in Galileo's definition of wine as sunlight held together by water.

As a child I read the stories of the philosopher's stone, how only a small quantity could convert a massive amount of worthless metal to gold and, supposedly, when added to wine or spirits, it became the mythical "elixir of life" -- a potion that would cure illness, restore youth, and even grant immortality. Two years ago I moved to Grasse, the perfumed city in the south of France where my mother grew up, to recover from injuries sustained in a near-fatal car crash. I was twenty-six at the time and neither immortality nor eternal youth were much on my mind. All I wanted was to walk again. So I brought my own "elixir of life" hoping it would hasten my cure -- bottles of wine from home.

Philippe, my live-in boyfriend, refused to drink any of it with me. A wine snob and a purist, the only wines he liked were listed in the Guide Hachette -- and they were all French. So I drank my family's wine when he wasn't around.

Like now. This time he had to go to Italy. Another vague story about business and no idea when he'd be back. When he was home -- an increasingly rare occurrence -- he stayed up most nights talking on the telephone, smoking pack after pack of Gauloises. He never mentioned those conversations. I knew not to ask.

I seem to have a habit of getting involved with men who don't sleep at night. A bartender, a paramedic, a law student moonlighting as a cabdriver -- and now Philippe. There was a time when I slept deeply and soundly the minute my head touched the pillow -- "sleeping on both ears," the French call it. But the men who have drifted through my life have gradually turned me into a sheep-counting insomniac.

What kept me awake this night was the mistral -- the dry, cold wind that began blowing from the north sometime after midnight. At sunset altocumulus clouds shaped like giant cuttlefish had turned blood red, a sure sign the winds would come that night. Tomorrow the late-August sky would be the luminous blue of a Van Gogh painting and windsurfers would flock to the beaches in droves. Tonight the mistral brought -- as it always did -- a raging headache.

I switched on the light and swung my feet out of bed, reaching for my cane, which was propped against the wall, where I always left it. I pulled on one of Philippe's shirts, which was draped over a chair next to the bed. It smelled faintly of his cologne. His scent was about all that was left of our relationship.

The cracked marble floor was cool against my bare feet. When I got downstairs I took a bottle of Montgomery Cabernet Sauvignon from the wine rack, grabbed a glass and corkscrew, and let myself out the kitchen door into the garden.

I brushed against the large rosemary bush outside the door on my way across the terrace to the old stone swimming pool. The massive bank of lavender along one side of the pool was dark and dense against a blue-black sky filled with windblown stars.

Wine is inevitably linked to a place, tasting of the seasonal vagaries of sunshine and rain, the particularities of the soil, the differences in the taste of oak that hint at which forest yielded the trees for the fermenting barrels. I sat on a low garden wall by the pool and breathed deeply, getting quietly drunk on the calming smell of lavender and the velvety smoothness of the wine. But even the heady fragrance of the garden couldn't overwhelm the scent and taste of Virginia as I drank, dissolving time and space, until the wine finally seeped into all the hidden paths that led to my heart.

Though I'd become comfortable and easy with my life in France, I wanted to go home again and rebuild my car-wrecked past. Through the open kitchen window I heard the phone ringing. At this hour it would be for Philippe.

I let it ring.

The caller was persistent. Finally I went inside, bringing the nearly empty bottle and my glass. I sat in a high-backed rush chair and picked up the phone mid-ring.

A man's irritated voice said in English, "God, there you are. It's about time. I've been calling for twenty minutes. How come your machine didn't kick in? What took you so long to answer?"

"It wasn't twenty minutes. You know we don't have a machine. I was outside. Nice to talk to you, too, Eli," I said to my older brother, glancing at the kitchen clock. It read two thirty-five a.m. Not the usual hour for a social call, even if he was phoning from America.

"I have some news, Lucie." His voice was slightly less sharp.

"What is it?" I poured the last of the wine into my glass. To get through this conversation, I'd need it.

Eli and I have not been on the best of terms lately, so we don't spend much time on chitchat. In fact, we don't spend much time on anything. The last time I spoke to him was three or four months ago...or five. The fact that I have been living in the south of France for the past two years has made this chasm something we can blame on the Atlantic Ocean, pretending it's physical distance, not an emotional divide that accounts for the estrangement.

"It's Leland," he said. "He was out hunting. There was an accident."

"How bad?" I asked. But it was very bad, obviously, or he wouldn't have called.

"He's dead." My brother's heroes came from all the violent action movies he watched as a kid, full of emotionless men without tear ducts. Armageddon could be looming but they could handle it no sweat because they were tough. Just like Eli was acting right now. So I was surprised when he added gently, "I'm sorry, Lucie."

"What happened?" I reached for my glass with an unsteady hand and almost knocked it over. I caught it just in time.

"He was alone, out in the vineyard. He had his shotgun with him so he was probably taking out a few crows. No one's really sure what happened, but we're thinking the heat might have gotten to him," Eli said. "He passed out and the gun somehow went off."

I tipped my head and drank the blood-red wine, wiping my mouth with the back of my hand. No way. Even I knew that guns don't "somehow" go off. You have to pull the trigger.

Besides, despite his record on everything else, Leland Montgomery was never careless when guns were involved. He had his share of bizarre habits, like making his children call him "Leland" instead of "Dad" or "Pop" or "Father," but he took no chances when it came to firearms.

"Who found him?" Eli's story didn't quite ring true.

The silence on the other end of the phone lengthened beyond the boundaries of a normal conversation as though the line had gone dead. It happened from time to time especially on international calls, so that on more than one occasion I'd ended up chattering into the flat blackness of a severed connection.

"Eli? Are you still there?"

For the first time his voice seemed to falter. "Hector. He was out with his dogs."

Hector, our farm manager, had been with my family for decades. Next to Jacques, our winemaker, he was the second most important person in the vineyard. He took care of the crew, the equipment, and just about anything else that needed doing.

"Oh God. Poor Hector."

I suppose I should have said, "Poor Leland," but it wasn't the first thing that came to mind. There is a French proverb that goes, "In water one sees one's own face, but in wine one beholds the heart of another." I stared into my wineglass and did not behold Leland's heart. To be honest, he hadn't often shown that he had one.

"He'd been out there for hours. Christ, I never saw so much blood..." Eli spoke in that tight emotionless voice again, but this time I heard a fine crazing in the veneer. "Then Bobby Noland showed up."

"Bobby came?"

"Yeah, he just got a promotion. He's not doing patrols anymore. I think it's crime scene investigations or something."

I'd known Bobby Noland since I was in the second grade and he was in fourth. By the time we got to high school, the principal at Blue Ridge High pegged Bobby as the type who'd be getting into trouble with the law when he grew up. He never figured Bobby for being the law. Frankly it surprised a lot of his friends when he stuck around home and joined the Loudoun County Sheriff's Department.

Eli cleared his throat. "Look, I can buy your ticket for you if you want."

"My ticket?"

"Come on, Lucie, don't tell me you don't plan to come home for this, either."

The "either" referred to his wedding. I hate being baited. He knew as well as I did that I couldn't fake an excuse this time. Not for Leland's funeral. "Don't be ridiculous. Of course I'll be there. I'll get my own ticket."

"Suit yourself."

It was hard to tell if I'd hurt his feelings or he was genuinely relieved that I wasn't putting up an argument. "I suppose we ought to start making arrangements," I said.

"They're made."

"Oh?"

"Well, sure. We're not really having a funeral, anyway. A wake tomorrow night and a graveside prayer service on Thursday. You know what a waste of time Leland thought going to church was. No point making him go now."

"I guess not." I swallowed the rest of the wine. "So you and Mia planned the funeral, did you?"

There was a short pause before he said, "Actually Leland planned it himself. He told Mason what he wanted one night when they were driving home from one of the Romeos' weekly poker games. As for Mia, your sister isn't taking this any better than she took Mom's death. She won't talk about it."

Mason Jones was our lawyer and the Romeos were Leland's drinking and poker buddies. The name stood for "Retired Old Men Eating Out." They had regular tables at most of the local restaurants and cafés and their faithful patronage kept more than one place financially solvent.

"Poor kid," I said. "Do you think she'll be up to going to this funeral? I don't think I could take a repeat of what happened when Mom died."

"I haven't exactly asked her. She's been spending a lot of time with a new friend so I don't see her much."

"Oh?" When he didn't elaborate, I added, "Were you joking about Leland planning his funeral after a poker game?"

"If it was anybody else you know I would be, but we're talking about Leland." Eli paused, then said with some bitterness, "Figures, his kids being the last to know what he wanted. You can imagine how I felt, hearing it from Mason."

"I hope he didn't want anything too weird."

"Nope. We got off easy. It's all pretty normal except for the bagpipes. His Scottish blood must have been surging."

Or maybe it was the post-poker Scotch. "Bagpipes, hunh?"

"'Amazing Grace' as the opening hymn and 'Taps' at sunset -- since he was a veteran -- as his coffin is lowered into the ground," he said. "Sunset's at seven forty-two on Thursday, by the way."

Eli would know a detail like that. He owned one of those radio-controlled atomic watches that's never wrong. I could hear him riffling pages. Probably his Filofax, which he usually wore chained to his wrist. He didn't trust electronic organizers.

"Why does it have to be Thursday?" I said. "I'll never get there in time for the wake. As it is, I'll barely make it for the burial."

"Give me a break, Luce. Of course you will. With the time difference, you'll arrive practically before you leave France. Sleep on the plane and drink a gallon or two of water. You won't even be jet-lagged."

"Why can't you delay it? Something's going on that you're not telling me. I know you."

"Don't be an ass." He sounded annoyed.

"I'm not an ass. Don't be crude. You didn't answer my question. Why can't you postpone the service another day or two?" I repeated.

"Because it's all arranged. That's why."

"What would be so hard about unarranging a wake and a prayer service?" I persisted. "Where are you going to get someone to play the bagpipes on such short notice, anyway?"

"I don't see the need to unarrange anything. I've got everything under control."

The floor was becoming quite littered with all the gauntlets he was throwing down. "Fine. Don't tell me," I said. "As soon as I get back I'll find out from someone else."

"You will not." It's hard to understate the overbearing and righteous sense of entitlement my brother genuinely felt because he happened to be born first.

I had just spent two years without him bossing me around. I didn't plan on getting used to it again.

"Give me one good reason why not," I snapped. "And I'll do what I want."

There was shocked silence, probably while he dealt with the new phenomenon of my defiance, then he said angrily, "All right, you want to know? You couldn't let it wait until you got home, could you? It's your goddamn godfather. Satisfied?"

"What are you talking about? Fitz?"

"You heard me."

Besides being my godfather, Fitzhugh Pico was my parents' best friend and the owner and chef at the Goose Creek Inn, a local restaurant known for its romantic setting, eclectic menu, and discreet waiters. It was the perfect place to propose marriage -- or end one, keeping a sly tryst under the radar. Soon after my parents planted our first vines, Fitz and my mother collaborated to produce two private label wines for the inn. Not only was he nearly family, he was part of the family business.

"I don't understand..." I began, but Eli cut me off, still furious.

"He's telling anyone who'll listen that Leland's death wasn't an accident. No one can get him to shut up, either."

"Why would he do that? What do you mean, not an accident?"

"Oh, for God's sake. Use your head. Work it out for yourself, Luce."

I sat silently, picking at a strand of loose bulrush on the edge of my seat and thought. Until now I hadn't noticed the whistling sound of the wind as it came through the still-open kitchen door. A pair of moths zoomed frenetically around the overhead ceiling light. One of them smacked into the glass shade and dropped to the floor.

"Oh my God," I said slowly. "Suicide. Leland killed himself and you don't want anyone to know." My voice rose. "You should have told me from the beginning, Eli! Why did you tell me it was an accident?"

"Because it was." Eli yelled. "And you're wrong. He didn't kill himself. But I've got goddamn Fitz telling everyone and his goddamn grandmother that Leland was goddamn murdered! Okay? Now do you understand?"

This time I did knock the wineglass over. It shattered into silvery slivers on the marble floor.

Murders don't happen in Atoka, Virginia. People don't even litter there. Thelma Johnson, who owns the general store, leaves the side window unlatched so the delivery boy from the bakery can climb through to leave his fresh-baked muffins and doughnuts if he gets there earlier than she does. The town is as wholesome and all-American as Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.

"What was that noise?" Eli asked.

"A glass...fell over. Eli, did somebody murder Leland?"

"No one murdered Leland. It was an accident, just like I told you." He was no longer yelling, but he sounded tense and edgy.

I massaged my forehead, which was now throbbing not just from a mistral-induced headache, but from this surreal conversation. Eli's story still didn't sound right. He'd left something out. "What aren't you telling me?"

"I am not going into it over the phone. We'll talk when you get here."

"Eli!"

"I've got another call. I've got to go. Call me and let me know when your flight arrives. I'll come get you. We'll discuss the rest of it then."

I said, "The rest of what?" to dead air.

I stood up and reached for my cane. In the dim light a large shard from the broken wineglass glimmered faintly. I bent to pick it up and saw the blood on my finger before I felt the knifelike edge slice my skin. It was a superficial cut, long and shallow, but the kind that bled like a geyser. By the time I made it from the kitchen to the bathroom in search of a bandage, a red Rorschach trail spattered the cream-colored marble of the stairs and the hallway.

I got to the toilet just before I threw up. Afterward, I sat in the dark on the cool floor of the enormous old bathroom and leaned my head against the wall, pressing on my finger to stop the bleeding. My head still ached.

Eli's brusque, abbreviated account of Leland's death was more disturbing than if he'd told me every detail. My imagination, left to run riot in the complete darkness of a lavender-scented night, conjured scenes from horror movies. Hector's dogs yapping next to Leland's blood-soaked body, lying there for hours in the blistering late-summer heat. Had he suffered? Had he known he was dying?

I stood up and found bandages in the medicine cabinet. Then I packed my bags.

Later I replayed in my mind that phone conversation with Eli. He'd been more than a little opaque about the details of Leland's death. And he wanted to get the funeral over with as quickly as possible.

Odd that he couldn't -- or wouldn't -- tell me why over the phone.

Was my brother trying to cover up our father's murder?

Copyright © 2006 by Ellen Crosby

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 25 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(7)

4 Star

(10)

3 Star

(6)

2 Star

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 25 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 24, 2012

    I love a good wine and a good who dunit. This was entertaining and written well.

    Good author. My first experience reading Ellen Crosby and based on the enjoyment I had reading Merlot Murders I have made purchase of the second book in the series.Looking forward to reading it.
    Great characters.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    fabulous first Wine Country Mystery

    Two years ago, Lucie Montgomery had her foot maimed in a car accident. She fled from her Virginia home to spend time in France recovering. Forced to use a cane to help her walk and still overseas she has shown no indication to return to her family¿s winery. --- Her time in Europe ends when her brother Eli informs Lucie that their father Leland was killed in a hunting accident. She comes home to the Montgomery Estate Vineyard for her dad¿s funeral, but is stunned as the once proud five hundred acres has been neglected since she left. Lucie soon learns why as Leland let the winery go to ruin while he invested in questionable schemes that wiped out the family fortune. Eli and their sister Mia want to sell the winery as they prefer the money to continue with their upper class lifestyle. As stunning as her siblings wanting to sell their heritage, Lucie is further shocked when Mia flaunts her affair with Greg, her sister¿s former lover and the person responsible for her mutilated foot. Meanwhile Lucie's godfather Fitz Pico warns her that Leland was murdered and anyone else opposed to the sale will probably die too he leaves her with a key to a box that may hold a fabulous diamond necklace. The next day Fitz is found dead. Lucie believes the killer struck again and plans to uncover the culprit before she joins the murderer¿s row. --- MERLOT MURDERS is a fabulous first Wine Country Mystery that uses a wonderful backdrop to the amateur sleuth investigation. Lucie is a delightful protagonist struggling with her father¿s death as much as his allowing their estate to become dilapidated. Her siblings make matters worse with their avarice. Fans will enjoy toasting newcomer Ellen Crosby to the sub-genre and think twice while sipping a glass of Merlot. --- Harriet Klausner

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 10, 2011

    Great, easy read!!

    Loved the book and now have to read the entire series. Stayed up late just to finish.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 22, 2011

    Recommended - Enjoyable read!

    The book had a nice pace to it. Something was always going on to advance the story. I will be reading all in this series.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 7, 2011

    Learn as you are entertained

    I knew nothing about wine making before reading this mystery. It's always intereting to learn a little bit while being entertained. The storyline leaves you undetermined as to "who done it" until just one point. Then you have to wait for the main characters to figure it out too and prove you were right.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 6, 2009

    Not a good book club selection

    Read this for my book club and we didn't have a whole lot to talk about. Not much to the plot or character development, but I don't read a lot of mystery books so that may be typical of this genre. Fast and interesting read - great for a lazy day inside. It was neat to learn a little bit about how a small winery operates. I wouldn't mind reading her other books.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 27, 2009

    A fun read!

    I read this book (and the next 2) and have started 3 friends on this series. Great for a day you just want to relax with a book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 18, 2013

    I know I have said this about cozies before, but I loved this bo

    I know I have said this about cozies before, but I loved this book. I enjoy all cozies that I read but this even more than others. One thing I like is that there was a little history involved in the story telling. Lucie is a person that I liked from page one, I even felt sorry for her at times even though she I think she can be a strong person. Greg made me want to reach in the book and slap him silly as well as Eli. I did not like either of them. Quinn is a person that one minute I liked and the next I did not. I still think there is some sort of mystery behind him that I hope to find out more about in future books. This is a series that I plan on continuing. There are many people that this book can appeal to, wine lovers, history lovers and mystery lovers. The history of wine and merlot in particular was very interesting to me. I recommend this book to all. I give is five stars. 

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  • Posted February 2, 2009

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    A PROMISING DEBUT

    'Murders don't happen in Atoka, Virginia. People don't even litter there.' At least that's what Lucie thought when she returned to her family's vineyard after two years in France. She had gone to Europe in order to recuperate from a near fatal auto accident which left her with a badly disfigured leg and dependent upon a cane. Greg had been driving the car. He not only left her physically injured but also heartbroken. So, escaping to Grasse where she worked as a perfume institute guide had seemed like an excellent idea. She is coming home after a telephone call from her brother, Eli, informing her of their father's death. She is told he died in a hunting accident. Losing her father so suddenly is trauma enough but Lucie is all but devastated when she sees the state of her family's home and winery - utter disrepair. Further, Eli has already made funeral arrangements for their father without consulting her. It's going to be quick, too fast for Lucie. Eli isn't at all the brother she remembered. He's now the picture of sartorial elegance, married to Brandi who reminds all of a Playboy centerfold, and eager to get his hands on cash by selling their vineyard. Selling is out of the question as far as Lucie is concerned: 'My mother had been excited by the renaissance in Virginia wine making that took place in the 1970s, among the first to see the possibilities of converting some of our acreage from growing hay to growing grapes. To give up now on her dreams, when our vines were just coming into their best production years, was unthinkable.' Greg still has the burnished good looks of a Greek god and is dating Lucie's younger sister. Her godfather, Fitz, has taken to the bottle far too often. When he's found dead in a vat of Merlot some would like to say he fell in during a drunken stupor. Two mysterious deaths are two too many, and when Lucie realizes that someone would like her out of the way she determines not to be the third. She finds an ally in a most unlikely man. Ellen Crosby, a reporter for the Washington Post, enriches her story with information about wine making and descriptions of the verdant Virginia countryside. She builds suspense with a practiced hand, keeping readers turning pages until the mystery is solved. A promising debut! - Gail Cooke

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