The heirs to one of the oldest Cognac estates in France face a hostile takeover by foreign investors. Renowned wine expert Benjamin Cooker is called in to audit the books. In what he thought was a sleepy provincial town, he is stonewalled, crosses paths with his first love, and stands up to high-level state officials keen on controlling the buyout. Meanwhile, irresistible Virgile mingles with the local population until a drowning changes the stakes.
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The wine detective is in rare form as he travels to cognac country. The story is all too short for the depth of action it provides. The main characters were unusual and very interesting. The murder is unexpected, and the villain was hard to unmask until the very end. The authors show excellent understanding of human nature and human nature is at the base of the story. The descriptions of the French Cognac area are vibrant, and the drink and its manufacturing is a vital part of the story. It has a little sex, a little intrigue, a difficult mystery, and a lot of entertaining interactions between the characters. The book is entertaining, educational, and a fun read.
I did not enjoy this one as much as I liked the previous one. Mainly because of how much Benjamin Cooker changes when he runs into his first love at a little bistro in Cognac. Well, even his attitude before that. He doesn’t seem to want to do this job, from the very beginning, before he even met the people involved, and pretty much left everything up to his assistant. That he runs into his old flame unexpectedly is interesting and you learn a lot more about his character, but the fact that she isn’t wearing a bra while gardening when he arrives at her home for tea (plus the other times her breasts are mentioned) and the sexual tension is not necessary and turned me off of the character, especially since he’s married and lies to his assistant about meeting up with her. This is made worse because he is very moody int his one, without the excuse of a cabbage soup diet. Jealous, rude, cantankerous. This is not the guy I liked in the last book.
There was a lot of sexuality in this one, so much so that it distracted from the mystery and the murder. I felt like the murder was an afterthought, a side story. The story is more about two women using their sexuality and bodies to get what they want, and a jealous married man who behaved badly - even during very important parts, we had to hear about him looking at each woman with sex on his mind.
I did, however, love the descriptions of Cognac and the property held by the Lavoisiers; liked reading of the drama that happens in this family (though I could have done without the subtle - and sometimes not so subtle - rumors that she had an affair with her younger brother and, at the end, lived as husband and wife with her older brother); and found the things that we learned about the makign of cognac very interesting.
As with the last book, there are some very tedious sentences i.e. “He took in the scents of pear, apple, kirsch, cherry, strawberry, cranberry, fig, apricot, plum, quince, muscat, lemon, orange, grapefruit, citron, and Mirabelle plums. He wafted fragrances of violet, mint, verbena, fern, moss, anise, fennel, linden, gentian, angelica, tobacco, lavender, and mushroom, along with some spicy aromas, including cinnamon, pepper, clove, ginger, nutmeg, licorice, and saffron.”
I liked Pierre - he was interesting and you could really feel how much he liked what he did, liked creating and experimenting with the product. I liked the friendship he began with Virgile, but not the innuendos that it was more than just a close friendship between two people who were interested in the same kind of work.
Note: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Please remember that this review is my opinion based on my impression of the story.
These are lovely little afternoon treks through France, giving readers plenty of information, imager
Returning again to yet another story with famous wine expert Benjamin Cooker, this time to aid in battling a hostile takeover of a famed French Cognac estate by foreign investors. I’ve read several of these mysteries and am always impressed by both the wine-related information and the solidly described French countryside, history and traditions that surround the wine business.
Most of the charm in this series, for me, is in the food, wine and descriptions of place and traditions: the mysteries aren’t all that complex, but do move the story forward and give readers something to solve. Perfectly well-suited for a quiet retreat into France and its environs, and who wouldn’t love to escape to France for a few hours?
In this book, the winemakers of France are experiencing effects from the worldwide economic slowdown; and the region of Armagnac which hosts several Cognac producers is hard hit. The Lavoisier Vineyard is a family established producer, the three siblings who inherited the vineyard each received an equal share, and are at odds about the vineyards future. With one sibling selling his share to a consortium, the two remaining siblings Marie-France and Pierre are struggling to maintain control.
Cooker is hired to look at the books by the Chinese, and while he’s investigating, Pierre turns up dead. From here, the tension for Marie-France increases as her brother’s death will leave her as the minority partner in the Vineyard, and possibly in danger as well.
Neatly inserting past connections and new flirtations, subtle nods to family drama, and all wrapped up neatly with a solution that is logical and feels possible. The food and wine descriptions, and Cooker’s knowledge of both are beautifully integrated within the story. These are lovely little afternoon treks through France, giving readers plenty of information, imagery and entertainment.
I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.