Mystery, Subterfuge And Places I Must See Before I Die

The Winemaker Detective series has become an “obsession” for some readers, with its excursions into French wine country, its gourmet attitude, and its cozy mysteries. Here translator Sally Pane shares some details about her experience translating the latest one in the series: Mayhem in Margaux, which comes out this month.

Each new book in the Winemaker Detective Series gives us a glimpse into another part of France, and Mayhem in Margaux also shows us another side of the Winemaker Detective himself; this time he’s a Dad. The appearance of his daughter, fittingly named Margaux, complicates the relationships between all of the main characters, in fact. Cooker has a personal stake in solving this disturbing mystery, and even his exchanges with the colorful police inspector Barbaroux are touching and entertaining.

The plot of this mystery, inspired by a real heat wave in Europe (which occurred in 2003), links the past to the contemporary. There were fourteen thousand deaths associated with that heat wave, and as we are reminded in the story, it happened in the month of August when many government officials and physicians are on vacation. But even though Cooker and Virgile have the luxury of staying in Cap Ferret, they still have to go tromping through the vineyards under the unrelenting sun and unbearable heat. While they enjoy wine-soaked dinners of fresh fish and oysters on their patio overlooking the Arcachon Bay, the topic returns to worries of global warming… and subterfuge.

Besides the mystery itself, one of my favorite parts in the book is the excursion that Cooker and his daughter make to the Cordouan lighthouse. About four and a half miles from shore, it is the tenth tallest traditional lighthouse in the world and the oldest in France. It seems the perfect setting for this annual father-daughter retreat, and once again I find myself adding this historic monument to my list of places I must see before I die, even though I’ll probably never be able to afford a bottle of Château Margaux.