Friday, August 30, 2013

Death in the Vines by M.L. Longworth

First Sentence:  Olivier Bonnard sat on the bottom stone step of his cellar, his hands gathered around his head as if he were attempting to soothe a migraine.
Winery owner Olivier Bonnard discovers some, but not all, of his rare vintage wines have been stolen from his cellar.  Gilles d’Arras is missing something even more critical, his wife, Pauline, has disappeared.  It is up to Magistrate Antoine Verlaque and Police Commissioner Bruno Paulik to solve both mysteries.
For anyone who loves wine, the opening is quite devastating.  Unfortunately, it also contains a completely unnecessary portent.
Commissioner Paulik and Magistrate Verlaque are characters who are very different from one another, but work very well together, which is refreshing.  I did enjoy how the families of the characters played into the story.  It confirms the setting being a small city rather than being in Paris.  However, there was very little character development and much of the focus was on personal relationships, rather than the crimes.  That said, there were interesting insights into relationships in general.  Aside from the principals, there were a lot of characters introduced but with no indication of who they were or how they were relevant.
Although a strong sense of place is lacking, there are enough passages with visual descriptions that paint verbal pictures and assure us that we are in the beautiful area of Aix-en-Provence.  There are wonderful descriptions of wine, but not the mouth-watering descriptions of food other authors may provide. The narrative is smooth and the dialogue natural.
“Death in the Vines” is a gentle mystery.  It is much more a story of character—and very good, interesting characters they are--than of plot.  It is enjoyable but not terribly exciting. 

DEATH IN THE VINES (Pol Proc-Verlaque/Paulik-France-Contemp) - Good
Longworth, M.L. - 3rd in series
Penguin Books - 2013

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