Corked by Cabernet
Berkley, Feb 2009, $7.99
In Napa Valley, Malveaux Estates manager Nikki Sands and owner Derek Malveaux are in love and plan to live together on the property. However, she is bit upset at a time she is overly busy to learn Derek’s gay brother Simon and his partner Mario have arranged for Guru Alan Sansi and his Source of Enlightened Elite (SEE) to conduct a seminar on the estate. Derek explains he needs the money while he also informs his beloved he is going to New York on business.
The SEE attendees arrive and Nikki realizes they have family conflict starting with the guru’s daughter Sierra and Japanese publisher Iwao Yamimoto who wants to become the SEE publisher and demands Alan look at a video he brought with him; Alan refuses. On the Napa Valley Wine Train, a drunken Sierra heads to the storage car to find more wine only to see the body of Iwao. Nikki contains the crime scene until Detective Jonah Robinson arrives. He warns her to not sleuth, but asks her to listen to the SEE members when they talk. She enlists Simon and Mario, but though Nikki tries to do no more than listen, she begins to sleuth.
Although the motive comes late and seems a bit weak, the latest Vintage Murder amateur sleuth (see MURDER UNCORKED and MURDER BY THE GLASS) is a lighthearted fun Napa Valley whodunit that goes well with red wine. The recurring cast is solid though Derek is conveniently across the country during the “not” investigation as he would have taken his beloved to task for her involvement. The SEE members especially the guru and his family are a fascinating crew as each has issues, especially the three adult children. Fans of the series will enjoy Nikki’s inquiry as she swears she is not investigating just assisting Robinson.