Book Reviews: Wine, Morals, and Mysteries

He flexed his muscles and cooed, “I’ll see you again, even if it’s just in my wildest dreams.”
She looked incredulous. “You’re quoting Taylor Swift?”

Mayhem in Margaux
Sixth in a series of murder mysteries featuring a wine expert in France, but first I’ve read. Hard for me to figure out all the characters, but not nearly as hard as others where I haven’t started at the beginning. For instance, the main character is incredibly protective of his daughter, partly because of what occurs in this book, but I suspect stuff has happened in previous entries that leads to this quirk.
As one would expect, there’s a lot of wine talk, which I gleefully let go over my head. There’s also plenty on cars and a little on boats, neither of which interest me either. But more importantly this book is written in such an easygoing manner that you flow through it quickly. It’s no big deal mystery-wise, yet completely enjoyable. I would definitely read others in the series.

A Primer on Moral Renewal in America
Part diatribe, part supplication, this book is a full-on entreaty for Americans to, in a nutshell, treat each other better, respect each other, and so on. Chapters include science, ignorance, friendship, tolerance, honesty and integrity, love and hate, religion, hunger, money, and of course politics.
While it accurately depicts the problem, other than a vague “we must do better without regard to politics” there’s no solution offered. Maybe the author wasn’t trying to offer a solution, but if that’s true then this is only a summation of problems that the people who would actually read this already know.

The Lady Vanished
Former Interpol cop now PI is still suffering PTSD six months after being stabbed, so he goes rowing on the Thames as therapy while he takes on a few piddling cases until finally being hired to find a missing rich old lady.
There is—quite literally if you actually weighed them—a ton of characters, so it’s easy to get confused; there is a character list at the end, but this is something that should go at the beginning. The woman’s family is pretty interchangeable, full of unlikeable people, which didn’t help in general but made me commiserate with the protagonist.
Much better is the sense of place; I particularly love stories in LA, Seattle, Vancouver—places I’m incredibly familiar with, and while I don’t know London nearly as well, in this case there were plenty of locales I’ve been to, particularly the Holland Park area, which I have no doubt increased my enjoyment.
Figured out the big plot point a split second before the reveal. . .

Hit and Run
Down on luck PI in SoCal, something that’s been written since probably before Chandler; the difference here is this one’s female. This was written in 1989, set in Orange County, from Anaheim to Santa Ana to Irvine; rich and poor and touristy, all over the literal map.
Apparently in previous books she became a widow, and now all the guys want her. She’s likeable enough, though she has plenty of psychological tics that would have most men today scurrying in the opposite direction. But what’s the rich guy’s motive for being so nice to her? As expected—when finally revealed—it’s part of the plot, which in general was kinda weak, especially motive—there were a few red herrings that might have worked better—though the villain was well done.
Except for the payphones and answering services—lack of cellphones—it doesn’t sound dated at all. Nothing all that special, but liked it well enough.



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