Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Merlot Murders: a Wine Country Mystery by Ellen Crosby

I met Ellen Crosby at a book signing event just over a year ago. I picked up her book because I lived in Virginia wine country for seven years. I bought the book because Ellen Crosby seemed like a really nice, down to earth lady. I have been saving the book for a special occasion. I don't know that this week was special, but it was a good time to read something amusing and diverting. I liked Crosby's foray into Virginia wine country and the world of mysteries.
Crosby has a light writing style that made her book a really quick read. That doesn't mean the plot was overly basic just that she was descriptive without being laborious, detailed without getting mired in text. I fell into the story and was able to read the entire book in less than forty-eight hours. It was shy of 300 pages so it wasn't a long book, but it also wasn't heavy.
I enjoyed Lucie Montgomery, Crosby's main character. She has a past that makes her an interesting character but she is not somehow disturbed and jaded by a haunting mystery. Crosby explains up front what makes her heroine unique - and she writes the difference well. It was not too heavy-handed nor was it suddenly forgotten about on page twenty.
In addition, I enjoyed Crosby's attention to detail with wine making. I always enjoy a book where I can learn a few tidbits of trivia. Having lived in Virginia I knew bits here and there about Virginia wine-making. And as a UVa alum it would be hard to not know about Thomas Jefferson's connection to the wine making industry. But, I did learn more about what makes Virginia wine unique and about the actual process of harvesting grapes and turning them into wine. I don't know that I could hold an educated conversation about the world of vintners, but I feel as thought I might know listen to such a conversation and know what was going on.
The only thing that I didn't like about The Merlot Murders was the ending. Not that I disagreed with how she solved the crime. Instead I just felt like the story ended too abruptly. She was obviously setting herself up for a sequel and the beginning of a series. Nevertheless, I still would have liked to see at least one more chapter to wrap up the story. As it stood the murder was solved, the book was over. There was absolutely no sense of closure. What about all the lingering problems that remained?
All in all, I would recommend this book to almost anyone. There was no overt sex or violence. The story was intriguing without being too edge of your seat gripping. I will definitely keep my eyes out for the two other Wine Country mysteries that Crosby has since written. And maybe I will get a chance to see her at another book signing and tell her how much I enjoyed her work.

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