A Vintage Murder
by Michele Scott

Berkley Prime Crime, 2008. ISBN 978-0-425-22254-6.
Reviewed by Laura Strathman Hulka
Posted on 06/24/2008

Fiction: Mystery

The latest entry in the Wine Lover's Mystery series is a mixture of romance and murder. When protagonist Nikki Sands joins her boss-now-boyfriend Derek in an adventure to the wine country area of Australia, she has no idea how wild her life is about to become!

Nikki and Derek are on a fact-finding mission, hoping to get a license to distribute wine in the States from a dynamic popular Aussie winemaker. Their romance is so new that even a simple kiss causes Nikki to tremble in her boots. And then there's the brouhaha at the winery: a Hollywood movie production company is filming a hot new movie with hot young stars, complete with dingoes, snakes and boxing kangaroos.

The Napa couple have only been in Australia two days when the leading lady of the movie dies, due to a venomous bite from a brown snake. The bizarre death is written off as an accident, despite the actress' unpopularity and diva behavior, but Nikki isn't sure. Is she the only one that believes Lucy Swanson was murdered?

As the story unfolds, our characters are joined by Simon, who is Derek's gay brother, and Marne, a nasty nuisance from Nikki's Hollywood past, a gossip columnist with a vitriolic tongue. When Nikki is tapped to take Lucy's place as lead in the movie, she puts herself in the perfect place to snoop. Each day brings new revelations and more bizarre behaviors from the movies actors, the winemakers and the support staff of the movie company. As Nikki tries her best to be a dynamite actor, she is constantly distracted by clues and confused by contradictory information.

The book is a great summer read—and the recipes are mouthwatering. Each recipe includes suggested wine pairings, and whether or not you will ever try the recipes, they add spice and interest to the plot. It would have been good to have a bit more on the wine making of Australia, and such mundane information as the difference between Syrah and Shiraz. (Both are basically made from the same grape, a Rhône varietal.) Nonetheless, this book kept my interest from beginning to end, and left me eager to try the Chocolate Silk Pie, paired with the 2004 Zinfandel Crookshed as its wine partner!

Michele Scott grew up thirty minutes east of San Diego in an area called Jamul. At nine years old, she knew she loved to write and one day wrote a short story that she showed to her dad. He was so supportive that from that moment on, she never stopped writing. Scott lives in San Diego with her very supportive husband, two sons and daughter. Visit her website.

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