Sunday, June 15, 2014

Treachery and Mystery in French Wine Country

Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noel Balen
Le French Book
February 2012

Treachery in Bordeaux is the first of a 20 book series featuring renowned wine expert Benjamin Cooker. A very popular French TV series is also based on the series. Cooker is an expert vintner and wine critic, much sought after by the industry and well-known by the public at large.When a vintage from the prestigious grand cru Moniales Haut-Brion is tampered with in the barrel, the owner calls Cooker in to investigate whether it was sabotage. Benjamin, along with his new assistant, Virgile Lanssien, turns amateur detective in order to discover the culprit as well as the reason. 

What I don't know about wine production is a vast territory, so I found much of the book very interesting. There are wonderful descriptions of the Bordeaux region, almost cinematic in nature. However, Cooker comes across as too gimmicky a character; always perfectly turned out with the perfect wardrobe, the perfect car, and a whopping ego to match. In contrast, both Virgile and Cooker's wife, Elisabeth, are cardboard. Elisabeth seems to exist solely to keep a perfect home and turn out exquisite meals on demand. The book is also very short; a little longer than novella length. The mystery is tied up in just a few pages with characters that came into the story just to supply a solution. One has the feeling that the book came into existence after the TV script was written. I came to the last page and said, "Wait, What? Is that it"?

I did find the information on the wine industry of interest, keeping me reading, and am willing to read more of the series, in the hope that there is more character development. All in all it was a pleasant and undemanding read so I will give it 3 stars.

Thanks to Le French Book and for an advance digital copy.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Thrilling Debut Gas-Lit Thriller- Read in one sitting.

Lauren Owen
Random House
June 17, 2014

The Quick by Lauren Owen was named one of the top ten fiction books of the season by Publisher's Weekly and to me, it more than fulfilled that promise. I was enthralled by the story and the characters from the start despite an admittedly somewhat slow pace. I was going to try to write a review without revealing the secret but it's out now. There are vampires in this story but not your sexy, sparkly ones. The vampires of London in 1892 are terrifying in every way.

Charlotte and James Norbury grew up isolated in a moldering manor in York. Orphaned at an early age with only an aunt to raise them, the two formed a strong bond. Charlotte as the elder becomes both mother and sister to the shy James but James, as a man, has the opportunity to go off to school while Charlotte is left on the estate to care for the now ailing aunt. James goes to live in London where he hopes to fulfill his literary aspirations. When the aunt dies and James disappears there is nothing for it but that Charlotte find him. When she does his condition shocks and horrifies her but she is determined to rescue him.

The Quick is filled with indelible characters; shy James, stalwart Charlotte, brash but heroic American Arthur Howland, and the sinister "Dr. Knife", who despite being "quick" (still living) is one of the more chilling characters I have ever encountered. I found myself emotionally invested in the characters in a way I am usually not with stories in this genre. I grieved over some of their fates and rejoiced at others. There is some happiness to be found but at a horrific cost. Let me not forget the whopper of a twist at the end.

Thanks to and Random House for an advance digital copy of The Quick which is without doubt, one of the best novels I have read this year.

RATING- 4.5 Stars