Not surprising that I brought wine today

Flambé in Armagnac (Winemaker Detective) - Jean-Pierre Alaux, Noël Balen, Sally Pane

I mentioned the Winemaker Detective series to a friend who lives in Paris.  She said she hadn’t seen the series or read the books, but that one of the stars in the television series was a good actor.  This led to a conversation about American crime shows versus French crime shows: dumbed down versus too complicated.  But we both agreed that the French have the wine market locked in.


                And in many ways that is what this series is in the cozy mystery market.


                This installment finds our favorite wine expert in the home of D’Artagnan, while he and his ever present assistant Virgile are hired to write a report for an insurance company.  Benjamin (the French version of Jessica Fletcher) soon discovers that as always there is more going on that at first appears.  Because this is France, it involves adultery, good alcohol, food, and rugby.


                And in this installment, literature as not only Dumas is referenced by Charles Perrault as well.   


                In many ways, the mystery presented here – based on the rise and fall of a family- is more tightly plotted than the last book I read in the series.  Unlike the previous book, the ending and resolution for some of the characters is more up in the air than in Mayhem in Margeaux, mostly likely because the reader knows nothing too bad will happen to the family Cooker family.  Additionally, while still keeping the air of a cozy mystery, there are looks at class and gender differences or double standards.  This doesn’t make the book darker than the rest of the series, but perhaps meatier than some of the other volumes.


                While it would be impossible to describe Virgile as a lightweight, he comes into his own more in this book.  Instead of being given a romantic sub-plot (Virgile is usually the active sensualist), Virgile finds himself in the midst of a new friendship.  Some of the best sections in the book concern this relationship, including some very funny rugby scenes, and they serve to deepen Virgile’s character and even make him a tad more likable.  He becomes more than the pretty face and servicing body part that he was in danger of being in a few of the earlier books.  He is far more likable here.


                I find myself looking always on the lookout for the newest volume in this fun, cozy mystery series.