"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.
A phone call at two thirty in the morning is never good news. Lucie Montgomery's semiestranged brother, Eli, calls her in France to tell her their father, Leland, has been killed in a hunting accident on the family's five-hundred-acre Virginia vineyard just as the fall harvest is about to begin. By the time he calls, Eli has already made funeral arrangements with what Lucie argues is indecent haste.
It is an emotional trip home -- the first since an automobile accident two years ago, which left Lucie disabled and dependent on a cane. Her family's once elegant home and winery are now shabby and run-down, thanks to her father's penchant for fringy business deals. Eli, also cash-strapped and desperate to support his new wife's extravagant lifestyle, has already convinced their rebellious younger sister, Mia, to sell the debt-ridden estate and reap the profits from the valuable land it sits on, overruling Lucie's protests.
On the eve of the funeral Lucie's godfather, Fitz, a partner in the family business, tells her Leland's death was no accident. Whoever killed him was motivated by the potential sale of the vineyard. It is the last conversation she will have with Fitz. Now the lone holdout preventing the vineyard sale, Lucie realizes she's next in line for another "accident." With her greedy brother, hell-raising sister, and a seemingly cut-rate vintner hired by Leland just before he died, all the suspects are disturbingly close to home. Unsure whom she can trust, Lucie must uncover the truth about the deaths of her father and godfather -- and oversee a successful harvest to save the vineyard she loves.
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.
Received this as a gift and begrudgingly picked it up while on vacation. I was hooked by Chapter 1 - good characters, well developed storyline, interesting setting and well researched historical links. This was a surprise winner for me. I just finished book one and am already downloading the next in the series.
No real ending...
The book was ok until the end which was not an end.
Too much detail, too little action
I have mixed views of this book. It's an easy read and well written, but it seems like each paragraph is overly filled with descriptive detail that is superfluous to the plot and sometimes difficult to wade through. As to the murder mystery, it is only vaguely present as a backdrop to detail about Virginia's hunt country and its social scene, wine making, and charter development. Until the very end when all is revealed in a very "unmysterious" fashion. I will read another of this author's books just to see if her storytelling improves. But, if not, that will be the last of her books for me.