Pros: A mystery made for wine lovers
Cons: Some foolishness and unlikable characters
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
In Nadine Nettmann’s Decanting a Murder (A Sommelier Mystery), Katie Stillwell is a sommelier who’s just failed her certified sommelier exam. She’s reconsidering whether she wants to try again at the next opportunity, and gets thoroughly sidetracked when her best friend, Tessa, gets accused of killing Mark, the owner of a particularly well-known winery. Katie becomes determined to prove Tessa’s innocence, no matter how many stupid and dangerous things she has to do along the way.
Tessa is thoroughly unlikable, self-centered, bitchy, etc. I think we’re supposed to be able to empathize with her over a past experience in which she took the blame for one of Katie’s illegal ideas. Instead, I couldn’t really believe that the Tessa we’re shown now was the same Tessa who willingly let herself get charged with a theft she never committed. She completely fails to take anything involving the mystery seriously. Katie wasn’t all that great either–she didn’t have as much depth as I would have liked, and didn’t show emotion well, which again, made her hard to empathize with. My greatest problem with her, though, was the way she handily strong-armed her way into Detective Dean’s investigation, then totally failed to tell him about events that are relevant to the case and of import to her. For example, a truck tried to run her off the road and apparently she didn’t feel this merited reporting. What?! Not only is that stupid in general, but the event presumably had to do with someone trying to run her off from her investigation, which could have given Dean a clue. Now, Dean I liked, so I wish he’d been more of a main character than the other two were. Although his judgment in bringing Katie along on everything seemed dubious at best despite the fact that he and Katie flirt.
You’ll certainly get more out of this book if you’re into wines, but I don’t think a lack of that knowledge would prevent a reader’s enjoyment. In that case it just serves as an interesting look into the world of wine-tasting and judgment. I enjoyed that quite a bit.
The mystery was interesting, but there were some small holes here and there, and I had so much trouble believing that Katie could get away with everything she was doing. I wish the characters had been more compelling, because there’s an interesting story here.
NOTE: Book provided free for review by publisher.
Expected publication date: May 8, 2016