Saturday, July 13, 2013

Book Review: How to Dine on Killer Wine by Penny Warner (Party Planning Mysteries #5)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Great characters and a fun setting
Cons: Story a little slow to start, one aspect unexplained
The Bottom Line
You are invited
To wine, dine at a killer
Party.  You'll have fun

Partying with a Murderer in the Napa Valley

You would think that a party would be the last place a murder would happen.  And yet, that hasn’t been Presley Parker’s experience at all.  This professional party planner has had murder show up at some of her biggest bashes, and How to Dine on Killer Wine continues the trend.

Presley has gotten an assignment that is just grape.  She’s to plan a party for the Purple Grape to unveil their new merlot.  This small vintner in the Napa Valley is hoping this is the start of big things for them.

But when Presley arrives, she gets enmeshed in local politics.  JoAnne Douglas is a crusader for making all wineries environmentally friendly, and she will do whatever it takes to get her point across.  She’s threatening to crash the party, in fact.  But the really downer is finding the dead body the next morning.  When the police zero in on the wrong suspect, Presley begins investigating on her own to try to find the killer.  Can she do it?

I greatly appreciated the fact that most of the action takes place in Napa since that’s where the victim and suspects all lived.  Presley lives at the south end of San Francisco, but instead of constantly traveling back and forth, she spends several nights in the locale.  Since I know the area, constant driving would have driven me crazy, so this was a nice touch.

The down side is that most of the supporting cast have even smaller parts that normal.  I did enjoy their appearances.  Boyfriend Brad and Presley’s mom do have bigger roles, and I especially liked seeing more of her mom.  Presley herself is an interesting protagonist as always, although I wish she’d quit talking about her ADHD all the time.  The suspects are fully developed, making us care about the outcome.

The mystery starts a little slowly, but it does pick up speed as the book moves along.  I was quite confused as to what was happening, but in a good way.  This is a mystery after all.  The outcome did make sense, although one aspect wasn’t fully explained.  It was a minor issue, however, since I didn’t even realize it until the next day.

As always, the book concludes with some tips for hosting your own wine tasting party, minus the corpse, of course.

Another factor I loved was that Presley didn’t get all the wine tasting terms.  I find them a bit pretentious, and seeing her feeling the same way made me smile.

Overall, How to Dine on Killer Wine is another fun Party Planning Mystery.  I always enjoy partying with Presley from the safe distance of the book page.

You should plan to read the Party Planning Mysteries in order.

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