“Every one’s favorite wine taster and expert, Benjamin Cooker has a problem. Actually he has two problems. Someone is killing people and leaving a very old, rare vintage of wine at the crime scene.
Second, his wife has put him on a cabbage diet.
If you lived in France, would you want to eat liquid cabbage?
I didn’t think so.
But Cooker loves his wife, so he makes an effort. And she better cook that venison for him at the end of the week.
The mystery, of course, is a more serious issue than what wine to drink with dinner. To discover the truth of the matter Cooker and his friends must travel to a past that much of France seems to forget.
Don’t let the length of the book fool you, it might be short, but there is much packed into it. There are some digs at Paris, a slew about wine making and tasting, some history, and a believable, if a bit Hollywood style, mystery. Reading this entry into the series, you can see why it was adapted for television. It moves quickly, and the descriptions are cinematic in style. The mystery and its conclusion are believable, and Alaux and Balen play fair with the reader.
The twist that makes this series different than all the other cozy mysteries is the detail and knowledge about wine that fills the book. While some of the conversation about France during German Occupation in WW II feel like history lectures or info dumps, any time Alaux and Balen write about wine, it’s like a personalized tour of a winery. There is no talking down, no info dumping, but passion. You will want to go out and buy bottles after reading this book. Wine sellers and producers should market tours based around this series, if this book is any indication. Non-French producers need to hire this pair to write the Australian American, Canadian, South American version of this book.
An enjoyable diversion.”