Friday, March 29, 2013

Book Review: Murder Uncorked by Michele Scott (Wine Lover's Mysteries #1)


Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: Fast moving story
Cons: Weak characters, ending, and writing
The Bottom Line:
Story moves quickly
Never warmed to characters
So overall weak




Put a Cork in It

Every so often, I run across a book I feel I must read. Such was the case with this debut in the Wine Lover's Mysteries. Now I'm not a wine drinker, so that wasn't the appeal. The series is set in the Napa Valley, and I grew up near there, so I was drawn to the setting. Unfortunately, Murder Uncorked didn't have much else going for it.

Nikki Sands is an aspiring actress moonlighting as a waitress until her big break. She's pretty much decided that ship is never going to come in, however.

Her fortunes turn when she meets Derek Malveaux, the owner of a winery in the Napa Valley. Derek is impressed with her knowledge of wines and offers her a job at his vineyard. Nikki is excited about the job, so she decides to take him up on his offer of a long weekend to see just what the job would entail. And the fact that she finds Derek more then a little attractive is just a bonus.

Nikki has just barely arrived at Malveaux Estates when she finds a body. Gabriel was the chief winemaker for the winery, and one of Derek's best friends. Derek's family provides a rich cast of suspects, and Nikki seems to be in the right place to keep gathering clues. Or is it the wrong place? Should Nikki follow the leads? Or is she in way over her head?

I found the book rather slow going. Ironically enough, this was because of the writing style. The writing was clunky. It lacked the polish of a more experienced author. And lots of the emotional action was told instead of shown, which does bug me. Most of the time, as I get into the story, I stop noticing this. It didn't happen here.

Then there are the characters. I never felt like I truly got to know any of them, even Nikki. I'm sure part of that was the writing style problems I already mentioned. The thing is, there was so much potential here for memorable characters. Derek's family alone could have been memorable. Instead, I found them flat with just a few hints of characterization to them.

Most of the books I read have a romantic sub-plot. Most of the time it's kept in the background and I don't really mind. Here, Nikki's feelings toward Derek were so overstated they got annoying by the half way point.

I must give the book credit for having a decent story. The plot moved quickly and kept me confused until the end. It was almost enough to earn three stars from me. Then I hit the end, which was much weaker then it should have been.

As with most "foodie" mysteries, this book includes recipes. This time around, they are for gourmet sounding appetizers and entries. And they do sound delicious. Each comes with a recommended wine pairing as well.

I'm not sorry I tried Murder Uncorked because I was so curious about it. However, I won't be reading any more in the series unless I get drunk first.

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