The Riesling Retribution
Scribner, Aug 4 2009, $25.00
In Virginia, Montgomery Estate Vineyard Lucie Montgomery visits her parents’ graves when a tornado strikes. The twister destroyed some vines, but also uncovered relatively recently buried human bones where none should be. The timing is exacerbated by reenactors arriving for the 1861 Battle of Ball’s Bluff. At the same time her winemaker Quinn Santori and her field manager Chance Miller are dueling over the vines and her.
The remains belong to Beauregard Kinkaid, who had a fight with Lucie's scoundrel father. When the murder weapon is found and belonged to the late Leland, the police declare the case is solved and Lucie’s late father is the killer. Lucie knew her dad was a rogue but not a murderer. She tries to investigate but the second spouse of Beauregard’s wife, powerful Summer Chastain, will not allow anything to interfere with the official verdict.
The latest wine mystery (see THE BORDEAUX BETRAYAL, THE MERLOT MURDERS and THE CHARDONNAY CHARADE) is a charming amateur sleuth in which readers will toast elegant entertaining Ellen Cosby for this fun entry. The heroine is harassed on all fronts as she struggles with the internal war between two key employees in which she is attracted to both of them, the arrival of the horde of re-enactors, and the belief her late rogue of a dad killed a rival. Although the whodunit is entertaining unlike the previous three tales, Lucie’s inquiry shares top billing with the feud and the Civil War buffs; still fans will enjoy future wine tasting awesome alliterations. Harriet Klausner
Hell's Kitchen Homicide
Scribner, Sep 15 2009,
The corpse is found in Hell’s Kitchen overlooking the Hudson. NYPD Detectives Conor Bard and Ralph Kurtz have the lead though the latter is retiring in a week. The corpse is criminal defense attorney Walter Lawton with mob ties, who has freed many obvious felons from incarceration.
The obvious prime suspect is the victim’s wife Holly who will inherit millions. The cops learn her lover is a professional hit man running a Brooklyn kennel Salvatore Zeffel and they fish the murder weapon a 22 out of the river; Sal’s choice of guns. The case takes several spins with almost all having an Albanian connection, but none quite making sense. Adding to Bard’s confusion is four women in his life: his boss who never leaves the station; his former lover who is seeing jealous Captain Reynolds; Holly who calls him all the time, and Albanian visitor Monica who he calls. He is attracted to the latter two while he wants Reynolds off his back as the case seems to go nowhere.
This is a terrific New York police procedural as nothing is quite what it seems. The banter between the partners is fun and Conor’s female problems add depth to him, but it is the whodunit that makes this an entertaining tale. Every clue leads to the Albanian community in the Bronx, but every step forward also leads to a seemingly dead end. Sub-genre fans will enjoy this fast-paced thriller as the streets of Manhattan seem dirtier than usual. Harriet Klausner
William Kent Kreuger
Atria, Sep 2009, $25.00
The day before Jo O'Connor boards the charter flight to Wyoming with seven other people, she and her husband Cork get into a fight. The small plane flies through a wintry storm and suddenly vies off course; no longer tracked by radar, the assumption by officials is the plane crashed into the Wyoming mountains. Cork joins the search into the wintry Rockies but after days of fruitless searching hampered by bad weather making a harsh mountainous terrain that much more difficult, the party gives up as there is no sign of the plane; no one could have lived through the cold if they made it past the assumed crash.
Six months later, Rebecca Bodine and her friend Liz Burns show up at Cork’s place in Minnesota. Rebecca claims the pilot of that charter was not her husband as everyone else assumes especially with a wrongful death suit claiming Sandy was drunk when he flew that fatal flight. A reporter digs up what Sandy was doing before the flight: getting drunk in a bar. Cork looks at a video of the pilot and concludes he did not drink but instead poured the liquor into something under his shirt while pretending to imbibe. Although he still believes his wife died, Cork knows something is off about the official conclusion so goes to Wyoming to investigate. The closer he comes to the truth, law enforcement officers, other government officials and drug lords are watching him to see if they have to take action against him.
Readers will sympathize with Cork who feels remorse that he and Jo went to bed angry with one another instead of making up while his fuming good bye was his last words to her. As Cork investigates, he and the audience begin to wonder whether Jo is alive but if so how. Filled with action and vivid descriptions of the Wyoming Rockies, William Kent Kreuger has somehow made this strong thriller a personal drama as well in what may be the best O’Connor tale to date. Harriet Klausner