Series still charms, but this isn't the best installment

Tainted Tokay (Winemaker Detective) - Sally Pane, Noël Balen, Jean-Pierre Alaux

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley.

                This entry in the Winemaker Detective series is the most disappointing.  It is not because Benjamin Cooker goes on vacation with his lovely wife Elizabeth.  The most rewarding aspect of the novel is in the greater role that Elizabeth has within in the pages.  The second is the leaving of French soil.  This always is a risk because it changes the setting, and for series like this, the setting is part of the charm.  Alaux and Balen show that they are just as good at keeping the charm of the setting outside of France.  The widening of the Benjamin’s world as well as shifting the primary interactions of the series for this novel made a nice change to the setting.  Of course, because Benjamin is a French Miss Marple/Jessica Fletcher, murder follows him. 

                Benjamin has left his shop in to some disarray because Alexandrine has been attacked.  It is Virgile’s job to figure who would want to harm the charming woman.  And it is here that the book falls down a bit.  While it is about time that we learn a bit more Alexandrine, here her plot seems to be simply a nod to Virgile, and what transpires out of that plot seems forced (and is wisely dropped at the end of the book).  It was disappointing because Alexandrine is now no longer different than many of the other women who have passed through the pages of this series.  That honor really only belongs to Elizabeth now.

                Cooker’s mystery makes up for this in some ways, but it is hard to get over the disappointment that the use of Alexandrine causes.