Title: Harvest of Secrets (Wine Country Mysteries Book 9) by Ellen Crosby
Genre: Thriller & Suspense, Cozy, Mystery, Amateur Sleuths, Culinary
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: JUST RELEASED – November 6, 2018
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title and Cover: Harvest of Secrets – Harvest of grapes and …
The search for the killer of an aristocratic French winemaker who was Lucie Montgomery’s first crush and the discovery of dark family secrets put Lucie on a collision course with a murderer.
It’s harvest season at Montgomery Estate Vineyard—the busiest time of year for winemakers in Atoka, Virginia. A skull is unearthed near Lucie Montgomery’s family cemetery, and the discovery of the bones coincides with the arrival of handsome, wealthy aristocrat Jean-Claude de Marignac. He’s come to be the head winemaker at neighboring La Vigne Cellars, but he’s no stranger to Lucie—he was her first crush twenty years ago when she spent a summer in France.
Not long after his arrival, Jean-Claude is found dead, and while there is no shortage of suspects who are angry or jealous of his ego and overbearing ways, suspicion falls on Miguel Otero, an immigrant worker at La Vigne, who recently quarreled with Jean-Claude. When Miguel disappears, Lucie receives an ultimatum from her own employees: prove Miguel’s innocence or none of the immigrant community will work for her during the harvest. As Lucie hunts for Jean-Claude’s killer and continues to search for the identity of the skeleton abandoned in the cemetery, she is blindsided by a decades-old secret that shatters everything she thought she knew about her family. Now facing a wrenching emotional choice, Lucie must decide whether it’s finally time to tell the truth and hurt those she loves the most, or keep silent and let past secrets remain dead and buried.
Bravo! I loved this book! REALLY enjoyed the author’s writing style, the sense of humor she conveyed, and the language used–gave me a sense it was written by a person with worldly experience and familiar generational background.
I felt at home. Comfortable.
The wine country of Virginia? No, haven’t had that advantage, although certainly close enough in nature to wine country in California where we enjoyed more than one sojourn to enjoy and taste test–the wines, the mustards, and the hot springs in the area of Calistoga (California).
Still, this book captured my interest immediately within the first page and never let go. While it is Book 9 of the series, it functioned well as a standalone. No problem sensing protagonist Lucie Montgomery, though I must admit to having a twinge or two of jealousy as she describes so effortlessly her beautiful estate vineyard in Atoka. Easy to imagine the rolling fields of grapes and the buildings, woods offset surrounding the property.
A skull is uncovered near the family cemetery by her immigrant workers and Lucie feels a kindred spirit with the person almost from the beginning, discovered to have been a young woman. She can’t help but delve deeper into the mystery possibly involving family. Actually, she had set a course of familial analysis with a DNA sample just recently. Having opened Pandora’s box, however, she receives a shock that will spur additional exploration into her family’s Civil War effort as well as the Underground Railroad, which opens further research into Kente cloth (the cloth of kings, “…probably one of the best-known African textiles in the world”) and quilts, a fascinating study as well.
At the same time as the skull is discovered, a wealthy aristocrat from France–an old crush from her summer there with family–has become head winemaker at La Vigne Cellars–their neighbor. He loves the ladies–probably WAY too much. The Montgomery Estate Vineyard is approaching harvest season and unfortunately a hurricane is barreling in out of the Atlantic. She and her fiancé, Quinn, must decide on harvest timing but worse yet, Jean-Claude is murdered and evidence points to one of her own workers. Jean-Claude, of course, has left no small field of persons of interest, but Miguel, worried about his immigration status, splits, and begins to look very suspicious.
Second book in a row I’ve read that has been multi-layered with detailed histories involved in the well-plotted mystery. This one weaves fascinating information regarding the surrounding area of the civil war battlefields of Virginia and the political climate and turmoil of the period.
“A taphonomist focuses on what impact the environment had on the body–the soil…” And I was amazed to learn that the best forensic lab in the world is in Sarajevo, created to search for “individuals who have been the victims of armed conflict, human rights violations…” Loved ones still looking for closure.
Information about wine making:
“…great wine is not made in the cellar; it’s made in the vineyard.”
Wine Country of Virginia:
The beautiful, scenic small rural towns, people, and businesses of Virginia; Atoka, Leesburg, Middleburg, The Goose Creek Inn, Red Fox Inn, Mosby’s Rangers, Loudoun County, Virginia. I’m almost ready to move!
Always a lot going on, the storyline never slows and keeps the reader flipping pages, each one leaving another lesson or plot point in one of the layers. Support characters are well fleshed and dialogue is easy and natural, with an occasional gentle poke at that famous southern drawl.
New premise location for me, unique historical details, and easy but fast-paced plot never let the tension slide, slow, or slack. I’m looking forward to visiting again soon and heartily recommend this entry in the well-developed series to anyone who enjoys a high-speed romp into one of our country’s most beautiful and history-laden areas. I received this uncorrected digital galley from the publisher (thank you, Minotaur Books!!) and NetGalley and appreciate the opportunity to read and review.
The Author: Ellen Crosby is the author of the Virginia wine country mysteries and two mysteries featuring international photojournalist Sophie Medina. In 2018, Minotaur Books will publish HARVEST OF SECRETS, the 9th wine country mystery. Before writing fiction, Crosby worked as a freelance reporter for The Washington Post, an economist at the US Senate, and Moscow reporter for ABC Radio News. Visit her website at http://www.ellencrosby.com and follow her on Facebook at EllenCrosbyBooks, Twitter at @ellencrosby & Instagram at ellencrosbyauthor.
©2018 V Williams – Kente photo attribution – Wikipedia