Monday, May 03, 2010

A Toast To Murder - Michele Scott


A Toast To Murder
A Wine Lover’s Mystery
Michele Scott
Berkley Prime Crime

Mystery

Nikki Sands, manager of the Malveaux Estates winery in Napa Valley, is just days away from her wedding to Derek Malveaux. As if a wedding isn’t stressful enough, someone has been sending her nastygrams. First is a wedding photo of Derek and his ex-wife with the question, “Do you believe in fate?” Shortly after that, while babysitting, Nikki ends up with gum in her hair. Her best friend (and Derek’s brother) Simon takes her to a salon for a fix, and Nikki ends up with a platinum pixie ‘do. Not entirely a bad thing, but not her usual style, and not what she had in mind for her wedding photos.

When out-of-town guests begin arriving, they instantly try what little patience Nikki has left with their stories of bright college days and their thinly veiled needling. Next comes a text message that reads, “Do you believe in fate?” Then another photo of Derek with an ex-girlfriend. Nikki is about to throw in the towel when she and Derek finally compare notes. They’ve both been getting messages, but they decide not to let it ruin their wedding. But someone else has other ideas. When Simon walks Nikki down the aisle, someone objects in a very straightforward manner: by shooting Simon.

The opening scenes of this installment (SILENCED BY SYRAH, A VINTAGE MURDER, CORKED BY CABERNET) concern Nikki’s adventures in babysitting a couple of toddlers (and getting the gum in her hair) and reads like an unfortunate episode of “I Love Lucy.” Some readers may love this, as Nikki and Derek are already trying for a tot of their own, but I have a very low tolerance for slapstick. The story gets much more interesting when the messages being arriving, but the buildup to the wedding/shooting seems overly long.

After this pivotal scene, the story really gains momentum. You don’t have to be a longtime reader to care about who would shoot into a wedding ceremony, but longtime readers will know that the Malveaux clan is pretty dysfunctional, and that includes a lot of their friends. The inclusion of the wedding guests introduces new faces and makes for a nicely diverse suspect pool. No knowledge of wines is necessary, but there are some recipes and suggested wine pairings throughout the text, as usual.

Rating: 7
April 2010
ISBN# 978-0-425-23392-4 (paperback)

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