Decanting a Murder
In Decanting a Murder, sommelier-in-training Katie Stillwell investigates a mystery in California wine country. Her outgoing childhood friend Tessa is working at a secretive winery whose products are much in demand, and Tessa invites Katie to a private party there.
The owner is found murdered in one of the fermentation tanks, and the cast of suspects includes his wife, the businessman owner of the neighboring vineyard, the bitchy assistant, the flirty vineyard manager, and Tessa. Katie gets involved in figuring out the web of affairs in order to clear her friend’s name when she becomes the lead suspect.
Author Nadine Nettmann does a great job with the atmosphere. That’s expected, since she’s a Certified Sommelier herself. I liked the short wine variety descriptions that started each chapter, which were actually educational.
There are hints throughout of the secret Katie shares with Tessa, but it’s guessable long before the final reveal, given the conservative/”wild child” dichotomy the author sets up. The plot and writing are formulaic but satisfying, as Katie gets involved with the attractive lead detective and risks her life to find the murderer.
Decanting a Murder may be the start of a new series. I’d read more. It’s aimed at the sweet spot of wine-drinking mystery readers, and like a cheap but reliable vintage, it gets the job done comfortably. (The publisher provided an advance digital review copy.)