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The Merlot Murders ((Wine Country Mysteries, Book 1) Mass Market Paperback – July 31, 2007


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Like a fine wine, Crosby's debut is complex and intricate. Lucie Montgomery, an American ex-pat who's been holed up in France for two years, returns to her family's vineyard in the Virginia countryside after the death of her father in a supposed hunting accident. Once home, Lucie discovers that the vineyard is collapsing under huge debt; her brother, Eli, has turned into a materialistic jerk; her little sister has taken up with Lucie's ex; and her godfather, Fitz, has become a lush. When, on the heels of papa Montgomery's funeral, Fitz is found dead, Lucie's suspicions are stoked. These deaths were no accident, and suspects abound. Crosby, a freelance reporter for the Washington Post, has seamlessly woven in details about wine making and interesting historical tidbits about Thomas Jefferson's (unsuccessful) efforts to establish a wine industry in early Virginia. This is a terrific kickoff to what promises to be a highly satisfying new series. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Lucie Montgomery is recuperating in France from an automobile accident that left her dependent on a cane. When her brother calls to tell her that their father, Leland, has died, she returns to the family estate in Virginia. She finds that both the house and the vineyards have been badly neglected due to her father's gambling and shady business deals. Her brother, Eli, needs money to support his new wife's expensive tastes, and he has persuaded their younger sister, Mia, to sell the estate. Before the funeral, Lucie's godfather tells her that Leland's death was not accidental and that the possible sale of the land played a part in the murder. Lucie must uncover the truth about the murder if she is to ensure the vineyard's survival. An absorbing plot, rich with details on the wine industry, and an evocative sense of the lush Virginia countryside are the main sources of appeal here. Barbara Bibel
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Lucie Montgomery (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books; 2nd edition (July 31, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416536043
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416536048
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.9 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #857,911 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ellen Crosby is the author of MULTIPLE EXPOSURE and GHOST IMAGE (Scribner, April, 2015) a mystery series featuring international photojournalist Sophie Medina. She has also written 6 books in the Virginia wine country mysteries featuring winemaker Lucie Montgomery, and MOSCOW NIGHTS, a standalone based loosely on her time as Moscow correspondent for ABC Radio News in the late 1980s. Before writing fiction, Crosby worked as a freelance reporter for The Washington Post and as an economist at the US Senate. Visit her website at www.ellencrosby.com and follow her on Facebook at EllenCrosbyBooks and on Twitter at @ellencrosby.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Catherine J. Reid on September 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Crosby has topped her first novel, Moscow Nights, by exchanging the bleak Soviet landscape for the luscious hills of Virginia. Other reviewers have reiterated the plot, so I'll confine my comments to the feel and breadth of the book. When I pick up a contemporary murder mystery (not so often these days) I don't expect to be wowed by the historical and technical detail in it. Somehow the author works Virginia, Civil War and wine making history into the story without interfering in the unfolding events of multiple murder. By the end of the book, I felt I needed to know how wine is processed and aged in order to fully grasp what was happening. I found myself rereading the descriptions of the barrel room and surroundings instead of skimming over them. I agree with the reviewer who thought Lucie was the only likeable character in the book. The first person narrative had us inside her skin and her paranoid, askewed perceptions. The old adage, "just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not after you," certainly applies to Lucie's predicament. Crosby expertly evokes Lucie's combined anger and grief over her injury, heart break and familys deaths. Somehow the character reaches into herself to get the strength to hold onto what was dear to her mother, the person most beloved by her. The oppressive heat and humidity only compound the heavy atmosphere of the book. The many (quirky)characters suggest a real community and also offer a cast for future stories. It will be interesting to see if and how Crosby develops Lucie's personality and allows her wounds to heal.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Gail Cooke HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
"Murders don't happen in Atoka, Virginia. People don't even litter there."

At least that's what Lucie thought when she returned to her family's vineyard after two years in France. She had gone to Europe in order to recuperate from a near fatal auto accident which left her with a badly disfigured leg and dependent upon a cane. Greg had been driving the car. He not only left her physically injured but also heartbroken. So, escaping to Grasse where she worked as a perfume institute guide had seemed like an excellent idea.

She is coming home after a telephone call from her brother, Eli, informing her of their father's death. She is told he died in a hunting accident. Losing her father so suddenly is trauma enough but Lucie is all but devastated when she sees the state of her family's home and winery - utter disrepair. Further, Eli has already made funeral arrangements for their father without consulting her. It's going to be quick, too fast for Lucie.

Eli isn't at all the brother she remembered. He's now the picture of sartorial elegance, married to Brandi who reminds all of a Playboy centerfold, and eager to get his hands on cash by selling their vineyard. Selling is out of the question as far as Lucie is concerned: "My mother had been excited by the renaissance in Virginia wine making that took place in the 1970s, among the first to see the possibilities of converting some of our acreage from growing hay to growing grapes. To give up now on her dreams, when our vines were just coming into their best production years, was unthinkable."

Greg still has the burnished good looks of a Greek god and is dating Lucie's younger sister. Her godfather, Fitz, has taken to the bottle far too often.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By L Smith VINE VOICE on August 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover
In the 1st book in the Wine Country mystery series, we meet siblings Lucie, Eli, and Mia Montgomery. They are descendants of a once-wealthy family who owns a 500-acre vineyard in Virginia along with their father and godfather. Lucie has been hiding in France for two years, recovering both emotionally and physically from a devastating car accident that crippled her left leg and left her using a cane to walk. She receives a call from Eli early one morning, only to discover that their father has died under mysterious circumstances. Lucie goes home for the funeral, and discovers that their beautiful estate has become run-down and is deep in debt. Now that her father has died, Lucie's brother and sister want to sell the vineyard and split the proceeds. However, the vineyard is still owned in part by Lucie and her godfather, Fitz, who sides with Lucie and refuses to sell. When Fitz is found dead from another "accident", Lucie quickly begins to question whether one of her siblings is desperate enough for money to kill their father and godfather. Lucie must work fast to put a stop to the killings and try to save the vineyard that she dearly loves and wants to keep within the family.

Being unlike many cozies on the market today with its complex and intricate plot, I was intrigued with the style and the writing in this book. The plot was interesting, and offered plenty of twists and turns to keep me guessing as to the identity of the killer. I enjoyed the somewhat "tragic" character of Lucie, and how she continued to fight for everything she loves despite her disability. I look forward to reading more books in this fascinating new series.

Enjoy!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jeanne Tassotto VINE VOICE on August 27, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback
As this first novel in a new series opens we are introduced to Lucie Montgomery, a 26 year old woman whose life of privilege as a member of a well to do Virginia family came to an end with a tragic car accident that left her permanently disabled. She had fled to her late mother's family home in the south of France to recuperate for a couple of months and ended up staying for two years. Her father's sudden death brought her back to the family home, a vineyard near the Blue Ridge Mountains. Once she arrived she was met with one shock after another, her brother had turned from a comfortable but charming slob into a status conscious snob married to a brainless bimbo that Lucie detested, and who Lucie found, was soon to make her an aunt. The next nasty surprise came when Lucie saw that her father had neglected the family home and business, that they were in desperate financial straights and that her brother and sister had already made plans to sell everything, whether Lucie agreed or not. One of the final surprises came when Lucie's godfather told her that her father's death had been no accident.

This series has all the ear marks of a charming cozy, the large cast of supporting characters, an interesting setting, an engaging main character with a few special qualities or quirks. What sets this apart from the usual cozy is that the humor here is rather dry and subtle, usually coming from Lucie's own wry observations of the people and situations around her. This series is much more a 'straight' mystery rather than the seriocomic that is more usual for the genre.

The mystery is sufficiently complex enough to keep the reader guessing at least over some of the details. Crosby has left plenty of loose ends to establish an ongoing story arc for subsequent books.
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