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Montmartre Mysteries
Winemaker Detective # 8
Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen, Sally Pane (Translator)

Le French Book
September 3, 2015/ ISBN 978-1939474476
Cozy Mystery / Paris

Reviewed by Richard Morelli


This latest installment in the Winemaker Detective series by Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen has a plucky winemaker, Benjamin Cooker, solving yet another whodunit where the world of winemaking and a crime centered on wine meet. This is a fast paced story, with Benjamin trying to determine why his ex-Legionnaire friend, who runs a well-known wine store in Montmartre, was seriously wounded in an attack. After all, who attacks a wine shop owner? Concurrently, he is asked to rehabilitate a very small vineyard attached to a hospital in Montmartre. (That vineyard actually does exist, but it’s not as famous as the better known but small Cols de Montmartre vineyard.)

I enjoyed reading the story, learning about the wines from the Rhone Valley and the challenges of running a productive tiny vineyard in the heart of Paris. I liked how the authors managed to deftly guide me through the world and politics of winemaking and wine tasting, while enjoying how the protagonist, Benjamin, works to solve the mystery of his friend's attack. I especially appreciated how the authors painted a picture of the distinctive contrasts between rural France and fast paced urban Paris. The novel’s breezy style makes it accessible to those who find the world of wine arcane and who are easily put off by the seemingly pretentiousness of wine tasting.

Any reader will come away as surprised as I was in learning that Paris actually does have several operating tiny vineyards today, that the Rhone Valley produces some excellent wine gems, and that the social role of wine and food is still important in both rural and urban France. In short, grab a glass of wine, for this is a charming mystery and great summer reading.

Reviewed 2015