Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Silenced by Syrah - Michele Scott

Silenced By Syrah
A Wine Lover’s Mystery
Michele Scott
Berkley Prime Crime


Things are changing at Malveaux Estates Vineyard, where Nikki Sands is manager. The owner’s brother, Simon, and his partner, Marco, just opened a spa and hotel on some non-producing vineyard land. And this evening, a new gourmet restaurant, Georges On The Vineyard, will debut. The month-long delay can be attributed mostly to chef Georges Debussey himself. He’s volatile, temperamental, and a taskmaster who seems to enjoy firing employees. But now it looks like everything is set. Well, there’s still the matter of Nikki, who seems to be attracted to both owner Derek Malveaux and neighboring winemaker Andres Fernandez. But that little problem will have to wait until later.

While Georges takes a Syrah splash bath at the spa before zero hour, last-minute preparations, including wine pairings and table settings continue. But, when Georges doesn’t emerge from the therapy room, Simon gets worried. Most likely, Georges fell asleep, exhausted from screaming at kitchen staff and decorators. Neither Simon nor Marco wants to enter the room, so it falls to Nikki to wake the sleeping chef. When she gets close enough to see his face, it’s clear that Georges’ big night is cancelled. He’s dead; shot in the head while in the bath. The police arrive, including a big-city transplant, Detective Robinson, who makes the singular mistake of telling Nikki to keep out of it. Like that’s going to happen.

The latest in this series is a solid addition. The changes to the vineyard keep everything fresh, and add a whole new group of suspects for consideration. Since Georges was one of those people who could be infuriating or flirtatious, there’s plenty of suspicion to go around here. The author leaves the Derek-or-Andres question open on purpose, and invites reader comments on the matter. I’m a bit ambivalent about the “choose your own adventure” flavor of that, but it will be very interesting to see how it plays out in future volumes. In this one, I particularly enjoyed seeing more of Simon and Marco, characters I’ve enjoyed since the first installment. Rounding out the experience are some great-sounding recipes and recommended wine pairings scattered throughout the story.

Rating: 7 ½
March 2007
ISBN# 978-0-425-21452-7 (paperback)


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