The courage of forgotten heroes lives on

An op-ed in The New York Times (“He Helped Jews Escape the Holocaust. He Died Unknown”) tells the story of Aristides de Sousa Mendes, a Portuguese diplomat, who in 1940 saved tens of thousands of lives only to be punished for this heroism by his own government.

Here, at Le French Book, it reminded of us Deadly Tasting, one of the mysteries in the Winemaker Detective series, in which an investigation into a series of murders in Bordeaux jogged memories about the complicated history of Bordeaux during Nazi occupation. It was a dark time: weinfuhrers ruled the wine trade, while collaborationists and paramilitary organizations spread terror throughout the region. The authors skillfully weave real history into an otherwise lighthearted mystery series, telling the story of an unsung hero. To discover.

The New York Times article reminds us to remember.

“Was he a great man? Was he mad in showing so little instinct for self-preservation?” one of his sons asked. “The answer lies in all of us when we try to pass judgment on him. I am proud of the fact that I was lucky enough to have such a man as my father.” Tens of thousands today are alive because of his courage.

Revealed: The Winemaker Detective and Winemaking

When you sip a glass of wine, how often do you think about the lives, tradition, craftsmanship,  and dumb luck involved in getting that beverage into your glass? Every year Mother Nature holds a new adventure for winemakers who, like goldsmiths, craft each harvest into a moment of pleasure captured in a glass.

The tough life of a writer of wine mysteries: Induction ceremony to become members of the Gaillac Wine Brotherhood of the Dive Bouteille.

The tough life of a writer of wine mysteries: Induction ceremony to become members of the Gaillac Wine Brotherhood of the Dive Bouteille.

Readers of the Winemaker Detective series discover much about winemaking as an art. Each book in the series is, in fact, a wine tasting. As you read, you take a sip, and then a second one, until you climb into the glass and become completely immersed in the drink, surrounded by the land where it was made, and the people who made it. 

Each book is written to honor winemakers and set in a place that is constantly changing. The world of Bordeaux is light years away from that of Burgundy. Who could possible put Alsatian wines in the same category as Loire Valley wines? This mystery series is an initiation, with stories we hope will stay with readers for a long time. 

Noël Balen, Jean-Pierre Alaux, and Anne Trager at the Lisle Noir crime fiction festival.

Noël Balen, Jean-Pierre Alaux, and Anne Trager at the Lisle Noir crime fiction festival.

Clearly, the authors Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen love wine. They love the France that is far from the beaten path, where people are struggling to make exceptional vintages, despite the blows dealt by fate, hail, or drought. We asked Jean-Pierre and Noël a couple of questions.

Where do you find your inspiration for the series as a whole?

Exploring the universe of wine is a little like taking a long journey. The more you taste, the more you go out and discover wine regions, the more there is to marvel at. Exploring the diversity of wines found in France is a humbling experience. We draw our inspiration from immersing ourselves in this world. With each novel, we visit a climate, a type of winemaker, and new natural environment. It’s an adventure, and we discovered that the world of wine has ways of doing things that are not always very orthodox. When we began the Winemaker Detective series, we had no idea how complex this world would be nor the failings we would find behind the scenes of the fine châteaux, which hide very human weaknesses.

Tell us something about the two characters central to this mystery series?

Before we even outlined Treachery in Bordeaux, the first whodunit in the series, we sketched the characters who would drive the plot. We began with Benjamin Cooker, a winemaker by profession, of British descent who had been living in the Médoc region in France for many years. He has an international reputation and his skills are recognized the world over. His sidekick Virgile went to winemaking school in Bordeaux. He has youth and a Cartesian mind, with a strong connection to his country roots. They are a tandem that combines two generations and two ways of approaching wine, working in a world where Mother Nature dictates fate and where traditions and myths still have a strong hold.



What are you reading this summer?

What's your choice? Psychological suspense? Mysteries set in Paris? Cozy whodunits? Amateur sleuths? Freelance spies? Mossad agents? Esoteric thrillers?


For summer beach reading, we are running a deal on three of the Winemaker Detective series ebooks. They will be marked down 25% through June 25. [Deadly Tasting __title__ Deadly Tasting] (9781939474209) - A serial killer stalks Bordeaux. To understand the wine-related symbolism, the local police call on the famous wine critic Benjamin Cooker. The investigation leads them to the dark hours of France’s history, as the mystery thickens among the once-peaceful vineyards of Pomerol. [Cognac Conspiracies  __title__ Cognac Conspiracies](9781939474339) - 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 and his assistant Virgile have their loyalties tested. [Mayhem in Margaux __title__ Mayhem in Margaux] (9781939474421) - Summer brings the Winemaker Detective's daughter to Bordeaux, along with a heatwave. Local vintners are on edge, But Benjamin Cooker is focused on solving a mystery that touches him very personally. Along the way he finds out more than he'd like to know about the makings of a grand cru classé wine.

Low prices on these titles will be available on all major ebook platforms through June 25.

The Winemaker Detective Guide to France on Shelf Pleasure

Gourmet sleuth in wine country.

If you want to follow the Winemaker Detective's footsteps in French wine country, check out this blog post at Shelf Pleasure. This is a great book lover's online destination. And the blog covers some highlights not to miss in France: Anne Trager, translator and founder of the publishing house Le French Book, pulled together a guide to some top spots to visit and tipple in France from the gourmet sleuth Winemaker Detective series­. As authors Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen say, “each book is a homage to a wine and a wine region,” and the rich details take readers there with or without a plane ticket.

Sirens of Suspense Interviews J.-P. Alaux and N. Balen

Chantelle over at Sirens of Suspense just interviewed Jean-Pierre and Noël, the authors of Cognac Conspiracies, which comes out this week, which is part of the ongoing Winemaker Detective mystery series. She begins with this question.

There are twenty-two books in the series so far (though only four published to date in the U.S.), as the series grows and evolves, do you find it easier or more difficult to fall into the story and discover new and exciting plots?

She goes on to ask them about their writing partnership, their other interests, having their books adapted for television, and what's in the works.

Click here to read the interview.

Winemaker Detective #Giveaways on BookTrib

We're very excited to announce five whole weeks of giveaways on BookTrib focussed on the Winemaker Detective series. This site calls itself "The lifestyle destination for book lovers," so if you don't already know about it, you're going to want to check it out. Scroll through the whole Click to Win list while you are there.

January 16 – 23: Treachery in Bordeaux 

January 23 – 30: Grand Cru Heist

January 30 – February 6: Nightmare in Burgundy

February 6 – 13: Deadly Tasting

February 13 – 20: Cognac Conspiracies

Don't Miss this Deadly Tasting #Giveaway

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Deadly Tasting by Jean-Pierre Alaux

Deadly Tasting

by Jean-Pierre Alaux

Giveaway ends November 15, 2014.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

New Winemaker Detective Mystery in Bookstores

New book release: Deadly Tasting

It’s a celebration of fine wine, food and cigars, and a murder mystery all in one, set in Bordeaux. Deadly Tasting, by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen, is another installment in the Winemaker Detective mystery series, featuring ace wine expert Benjamin Cooker and his sidekick Virgile.

In this cozy mystery, a serial killer stalks Bordeaux, signing his crimes with a strange ritual: twelve glasses in a semi-circle, one more filled with each victim. To understand the wine-related symbolism, the local police call on the famous wine critic Benjamin Cooker. The investigation leads him and his assistant to the dark hours of France's history, as the plot thickens among the once-peaceful vineyards of Pomerol.

One reviewer said it reminded him of why he fell in love with mysteries in the first place, which is quite a compliment. I find that this series just gets better, like a fine wine. This one is perhaps a little darker than the earlier ones, and you learn a lot about World War II and what it meant for Bordeaux and its winemakers.