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Vulture au Vin

Vulture au Vin

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Vulture au Vin

3/5 (17 valutazioni)
372 pagine
5 ore
Aug 30, 2014


Theodore Lyon, oil billionaire and wine collector extraordinaire, asks San Francisco-based wine writer Jean Applequist to cover a historic tasting at his Southern California compound. It's a career coup for Jean and a once-in-a-lifetime chance to taste great Sauternes from as far back as the 1811 comet vintage. What could possibly go wrong?

A tragic end to Jean's first luncheon with Lyon foreshadows trouble to come. Her worried boyfriend, Zeppo, insists that their friend Roman Villalobos, a gay martial arts expert, accompany Jean to Lyon's palatial Phoenix Gardens for protection. At Lyon's estate, Jean and Roman find not only a world-class wine cellar, but a museum-quality collection of Chinese art. Jean discovers an outrageous ulterior motive for her invitation to the tasting. She and Roman also befriend Bernie Lyon, the scion of the Lyon clan and a struggling filmmaker.

It turns out Zeppo was right to be concerned. Jean and Roman encounter family drama, drug dealing, manmade disasters, betrayal, and murder, all against the backdrop of ever-present vultures. Is there a connection between the stabbing death of a young local woman and the Lyon family? Are all of Lyon's eccentric guests really who they claim to be? As great wine flows, the body count mounts. Before the weekend's out, Jean and Roman must prevent their own brutal murders and flee a raging wildfire.

Back in San Francisco, all seems well until repercussions from the Phoenix Garden fiasco lead to a brutal resolution that leaves Jean, Zeppo and Roman deeply shaken and changed forever.

Aug 30, 2014

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Vulture au Vin - Lisa King



Three vultures soared and dipped in the early morning light, riding silently on broad dark wings. Katharine Murdoch observed them from her kitchen window—she had always found them among the most beautiful raptors in flight.

She brought her tea out onto the deck to watch the canyon wake up, moving carefully, making sure of every step. If she fell and broke a hip, her twenty-five-year idyll at this wonderful house likely would be over.

Katharine settled into a deck chair and sniffed the breeze, scented with chaparral and the faint spicy aroma of pepper trees. Below her, a roadrunner with a lizard clamped in its mouth dashed along the canyon floor. Two brown rabbits nosed among the oleanders and geraniums planted just off the deck. A bobcat used to come around most mornings, but she hadn’t seen him since construction began on her neighbor’s house, nearly three years ago.

She scowled at the imposing structure across the canyon, the only false note in the wild world outside her deck. The huge compound, a California-Spanish pile with the requisite orange tile roof, ran along the entire opposite ridge, 10,000 idiotic square feet for two people.

Katharine could never fathom why Theodore Lyon and his wife had come to this remote corner of San Diego County when they could afford to live anywhere in the world. They certainly didn’t appreciate or understand the area—workers had torn up acres of chaparral, cut down a dozen live oaks, flattened the top of the ridge, dug a gigantic basement, and, worst of all, planted things that needed a lot of water, when Valle de los Osos was lucky to get ten inches of rain a year. There was a rose garden, a bamboo thicket, a pond full of koi, even a putting green. Katharine snorted. Next they’d be terracing the hill to grow rice.

They were draining the aquifer, the well man had told her, filling their pools and oversized bathtubs, watering their thirsty plants. If they continued consuming water at this rate, she’d have to dig a new well. She could sue them—existing users had priority in water rights—but she didn’t want to spend her last few years fighting a billionaire in court.

At least the couple slept late, giving her a few peaceful hours before their gardeners started blowing leaves or chipping branches or mowing lawns. She preferred the cool mornings anyway—it would be another hot July day, and the dryness took its toll on her parchment-thin skin.

The canyon ran nearly north-south, and as the sun came up over the sprawling stucco monstrosity, Katharine looked at the brightening sky; now there were nine vultures. What had they found? She searched along the canyon floor—maybe a possum or skunk had died during the night. Moving shadows along the opposite hill caught her eye. Downslope from the flagstone terrace and Olympic-sized infinity pool, two men worked, partly obscured by a dense stand of manzanita. They were darkly tanned and on the short side, perhaps from Guatemala or Oaxaca, she surmised. As she watched, they loaded large, shaggy black things into the back of a green pickup.

Katharine made her way to the deck’s corner bench and picked up the binoculars she kept there, next to a well-thumbed copy of Peterson Field Guide to Western Birds. Although her hearing worsened every day, her eyesight was remarkable for a woman of ninety-two. She could still tell the difference between a red-tailed and red-shouldered hawk from quite a distance.

Shielding herself behind the magenta bougainvillea that cascaded over the railing, she focused her binoculars near the truck and realized the black things scattered about were dead vultures. The men were picking up carcasses by the feet and swinging them into the truck bed. She counted more than a dozen bald pink heads flopped over a heap of tangled wings.

Katharine spotted two rifles on the gun rack mounted across the truck’s back window. She scoured her memory of the last twenty-four hours. Maybe the vultures had been slaughtered during her nap. Or perhaps while one of those infernal landscaping machines was running. With her poor hearing, Katharine easily could have missed the gunshots. She felt a sudden flush of rage, but just as quickly took a few deep breaths. Anger was bad for her blood pressure.

The men drove the truck north along the canyon floor until they came to a sandy area near a large prickly pear cactus. They grabbed shovels out of the truck bed and started to dig. Katharine continued watching them for the next half hour as the sun rose, filling the canyon with warmth and light. They finally unloaded the vultures into the deep mass grave.

Katharine lowered her binoculars. Not deep enough, she thought as the men covered the pit with dirt. Just wait until the Department of Fish and Wildlife office opened. After tending to her own birds, she’d call a friend who worked there. The fine for killing a raptor anywhere in the United States was $5,000.

Mr. High and Mighty, with his noise and lights and his ignorant, arrogant ways, always maintained that he could do what he wanted on his private property. Well, not this time. This time he would pay.

ON A warm Monday morning a few weeks later, Katharine came in from feeding her birds just in time to answer the phone. She inserted one of the hearing aids she kept in a small dish nearby. She hated wearing them unless she absolutely had to.

Katharine, you crafty old witch, you got him! It was Bob, her exuberant young friend from fish and wildlife. Lyon decided not to appeal. His lawyer probably told him he didn’t have a chance. The son of a bitch is going to pay the full amount—$70,000.

Bob, that’s wonderful.

It’ll be all over the news. Nice work, lady. Next time I’m in town, I’ll buy you a drink.

I look forward to it. Thank you so much for the call. Katharine hung up, went to the living room window, and gazed at the big white house with satisfaction. Last night there had been a party across the canyon, the music so loud it bothered even her. Of course it would be better if the vultures were still alive, but at least Lyon would make restitution. This time his selfish, destructive actions would have harsh consequences.

Katharine decided to celebrate by having lunch at Big Tom’s, her favorite of the three restaurants in town. Just before noon she put in her other hearing aid, took a wooden cane from the closet, got into her old green Isuzu Trooper, and drove down the hill. She’d have the bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich on white toast with iced tea, and then some of that nice apple pie from Julian, a town in the mountains to the northeast where it was cool enough to grow apples.

Katharine would try to sit in Doris’s station. She was the older, more sensible of the two daytime waitresses. The little flirty one, Pilar, was friendly and talkative, but tended to ignore Katharine when male customers were around.

She pulled the Isuzu into the nearly empty parking lot. Leaning on her cane as she got out of the car, she noticed a kettle of vultures overhead. They circled above a small grove of eucalyptus trees bordering the asphalt lot, and now and then a few descended. Katharine did a quick appraisal of the route through dry grass and decided she could manage it. She was curious to see what the vultures were scavenging—last year she had followed a large flock at the edge of town and found the carcass of a mountain lion, unusual so close to civilization. Fish and wildlife had been very interested in that find.

Katharine worked her way toward the grove and stepped into its scented shade. Behind one of the trees, several vultures hopped about, pecking at a mound covered with leaves. Whatever lay beneath was the wrong shape to be a mountain lion. In any case, why would anyone camouflage an animal carcass? She moved closer and saw a slender human leg protruding through the leaves, female by the look of it. The vultures had ripped through suntan-colored hose, bloodying the leg, but the foot still wore a white, rubber-soled shoe.

Katharine recoiled in horror, nearly falling, but caught herself on a tree trunk. She knew she shouldn’t touch anything, but she had to see who it was. She gently brushed leaves away from the body’s head with the tip of her cane. It was a young woman lying on her side, her black hair tied back with a red ribbon, her pretty brown eyes staring vacantly at nothing. Katharine knew the face well—Pilar.

Katharine backtracked to the restaurant, willing her heart to stop pounding. Inside the old-fashioned diner-style establishment, a plump woman in a red and white uniform poured coffee for one of the half-dozen patrons, all of whom Katharine knew by sight. Hi, Katharine, Doris said, smiling over her shoulder and tucking a strand of lank brown hair behind her ear. You want your usual table?

Doris, call the sheriff. It’s Pilar. She’s dead.

A chorus of gasps and exclamations rose through the dining room. Doris blinked. Dead? What happened?

I don’t know. She’s lying in those trees. Katharine gestured. She sat down in the nearest chair, too upset to stand any longer.

Oh my God. Doris put the coffeepot back on its burner and hurried toward the phone next to the cash register. Are you sure she’s dead?

I’m sure. There are vultures. They only eat dead things.

LATER THAT afternoon, Katharine and Doris sat together at a window table in the empty restaurant. Outside they could see two sheriff’s cars, an ambulance, and a few curious people peering past yellow crime-scene tape into the clump of trees. Deputy Sheriff Matt Baeza, a tall, overweight man in a tan and green short-sleeved uniform, stood just inside the tape, talking to another officer. Doris blew her nose on a tissue. Her eyes were red from crying.

I feel so bad, Doris said, tearing up again. I had to cover the whole place during the breakfast rush, and I was so mad at her. And now look at her. She covered her face with her hands and cried harder.

Katharine patted Doris’s hand. There, there, you didn’t know.

Who would want to hurt her? Doris’s eyes grew wide. Did they—was she—

The deputy told me she has all her clothes on, Katharine said gently.

The two women watched as the paramedics emerged from the trees carrying a gurney. Strapped to it was a slender shape in a plastic body bag. They descended the slight incline to the parking lot and lifted Pilar into the waiting ambulance.

Deputy Baeza came into the restaurant. He took out a blue bandanna and wiped his forehead and the back of his thick neck. Katharine knew his mother was a Native American, which showed in his straight black hair and strong profile. Mrs. Murdoch, Doris, you can go now, he said. We have your statements. If I need to ask you anything else, I’ll give you a call.

Thank you, Deputy, Katharine said. Can they tell what happened to Pilar?

Don’t know yet, but Dr. Crawford says it looks like she was stabbed. Probably killed on her way to work this morning. Somebody went through her purse, so maybe it was a robbery.

Katharine closed her eyes. It always hurt so much when young people died, especially by violence. What a terrible thing that a sweet, vivacious girl like Pilar should be killed for the pathetic sum of money she’d probably been carrying. She wouldn’t even have had her day’s tips yet. Have you told her folks? Katharine asked.

Sheila’s over there now, the deputy said. Sheila was the only woman deputy in the small department, and Katharine had heard her complain that she always got the job of conveying bad news to relatives.

Katharine said good-bye and got back into her Trooper, her appetite gone. With a heavy heart, she drove toward Pilar’s parents’ house. She knew the dead girl’s mother well—Rosa Ochoa came in twice a month to clean Katharine’s house. The family would need friends now.

As she drove, Katharine thought about who in the world could have stabbed Pilar. Robbery seemed awfully farfetched to her—Pilar was not an obvious target for someone who needed money. Could it have been a lovers’ quarrel? She didn’t know if Pilar had a boyfriend. The girl had flirted with customers but was always lighthearted about it. Illegal immigrants camped out in some of the nearby canyons, but they rarely caused trouble. In fact they tried hard not to be noticed by the authorities. What about the methamphetamine cooks who supposedly worked in the area? Perhaps someone on drugs had done it.

In the twenty-five years Katharine had lived here, there’d been fatal car wrecks, deadly fires, farm equipment accidents, and the like, and sometimes criminals from the city dumped bodies in the canyons, but there had been very few murders of local people. She shook her head. It occurred to her that a lot of things had changed since the Lyons had arrived.


There was nothing wrong with Jean Applequist’s appetite. Her stomach growled as she contemplated the prospect of a four-star lunch at the Fairmont instead of the boring cheese sandwich she’d brought from home. She and her boss, Owen Partridge, editor and publisher of Wine Digest, rode in the back seat of their host’s black and silver Maybach Zeppelin, a make of car Jean knew nothing about. That was unusual for her—she had an unhealthy interest in high-performance automobiles. This one had a cream-colored leather interior and little curtains on the windows that you could close if you wanted to elude the paparazzi. Jean kept the curtains open, hoping someone she knew would see her.

Jean had no idea why Theodore Lyon, oil billionaire and wine collector extraordinaire, had invited her to lunch instead of Kyle, the managing editor. Owen had asked her along at the last moment at Lyon’s behest. The minute they were alone, she was going to grill Owen about what was going on. Fortunately she looked good today, in a gray matte jersey dress with a sash belt that she’d made from a Donna Karan pattern. The outfit went well with hematite hoop earrings. She ran a hand over her prematurely silver hair, liking the feel of her new very short cut.

This is the life, Owen said. He was in his early forties, running to fat, with a professorial tweed jacket and graying beard. He glanced at Jean. I don’t have to tell you to behave, do I?

What, you think I’m going to dance on the table with a lampshade on my head?

He chuckled. One never knows with you.

They drove to the top of Nob Hill and pulled up in front of the Fairmont Hotel, a stately Beaux-Arts edifice completed in 1907. Colorful flags from around the world surmounted the squared-off portico. The driver, a stocky young Latino named Chencho, jumped out and hurried to open the passenger door. He wore khaki slacks and a windbreaker with the Lyon Oil logo on the back. He smiled, showing a deep dimple on one side. Here we are, he said.

He tossed his keys to a valet and led the way into the enormous lobby. The décor was an elegant blend of neutral colors and gold accents, with massive pillars of heavily veined beige marble. Tall potted palms and extravagant flower arrangements broke up the seating areas. It was a busy morning, and many of the gray velvet sofas and cream-colored chairs were occupied. Jean had been here a few times with her friend Lou, who loved the mai tais in the Tonga Room bar.

As Jean and the two men waited before a bank of elevators, a loud voice at the registration counter caught their attention. They turned to look.

A dark, grizzled man in his fifties argued loudly with a harried young woman behind the counter. He held a battered straw cowboy hat in his hands.

I told you, I gotta see Theodore Lyon, the man said. In jeans, a Western-style shirt, and well-worn cowboy boots, he looked distinctly out of place among the well-dressed tourists and business people who surrounded him.

I’m sorry, sir, but he is unavailable, the clerk said.

This is important. I gotta warn him. Jean thought the man was probably Latino or Indian. He was definitely drunk.

I’d be happy to take a message and have him get back to you.

How the hell’s he gonna do that? I got no phone.

Perhaps you could write him a note.

No! I wanna talk to him face to face. Right now!

To the young woman’s obvious relief, two large men in dark suits approached the yelling man, one on each side, and escorted him from the hotel.

The express elevator arrived and Chencho, Jean, and Owen got on. What was that all about? Jean asked.

Chencho shrugged. That sort of thing happens now and then. Crazies trying to get to Mr. Lyon. He’s had to take out restraining orders a few times against people bothering him or the rest of the family.

Do you know that man? Owen asked.

Nah. He must be a new one.

They got off the elevator and entered the Penthouse Suite. Jean had looked it up on the Internet—it covered the entire seventh floor, comprised six thousand square feet, including its own billiard room, and cost $15,000 a night.

Their host approached them with a welcoming smile. Chencho made introductions. Pleased to meet you both, Ted Lyon said as they shook hands. That’ll be all for now, Chencho. Thank you. The young man moved off to another part of the vast apartment.

Jean had of course seen Ted Lyon in the media many times. She had read that he was sixty-four, but he looked younger. He was about six feet tall, with a compact build and honey-blond hair shot with white. He had the good haircut and perfect teeth Jean expected to see in the very rich. He wasn’t conventionally handsome, but his long jaw and broad nose made for an appealing face. His camel sport coat, navy trousers, and pale blue open-necked shirt fit him perfectly. The jacket looked to Jean like Zegna—way out of her price range.

We’ll dine on the patio, Ted told them. He led the way through high-ceilinged rooms that oozed luxury. The colors were on the cool side and the décor looked like an Architectural Digest spread—expensive and tasteful, but somewhat impersonal. Every window framed a spectacular vista of the city.

A table for three was set up outside on the patio, which had a breathtaking view of the San Francisco skyline, the Transamerica pyramid dominating, and the Bay Bridge and Treasure Island beyond. A waiter worked at a table nearby, arranging salad on three plates, and a sommelier opened a bottle of white wine.

Jean, Owen, and their host ate spinach salads with blue cheese, roasted pears, and candied walnuts, accompanied by a smooth and spicy Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc. The conversation was mostly about wine, and Jean was impressed with Ted’s thorough knowledge of the subject.

After the salad course, the sommelier presented a bottle of red wine with a simple black-and-white label Jean had seen before. I’ve brought a bottle from my own cellar, Ted explained. It’s a 1996 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti La Tâche.

Jean knew the wine—it was a rare red Burgundy that usually brought at least $1,500 a bottle at auction. After Ted had tasted the wine and pronounced it lovely, the sommelier filled their glasses and a waiter served them Kobe flat iron steak sandwiches with sautéed mushrooms and onion rings.

Jean sipped her wine carefully—she had a tendency to dribble on her shelf, and besides, she didn’t want to waste a drop. She didn’t know whether the wine was worth half a month’s pay, but it was damn good. On the nose she detected black cherries, toasty oak, and something elusive that reminded her of Chinese five-spice powder. The aromas carried through on the palate. It was full-bodied and intense, with a long, long finish. She thought it would be even better in five years.

As Jean ate her sandwich with a knife and fork, striving to keep meat drippings off her dress, Ted focused on her. Now Jean, he began, "as you know, I’m hosting a very important Sauternes tasting in early October, and Wine Digest will be covering it exclusively. Owen and I have been discussing which writer should be there, and I’ve decided to offer that honor to you." Owen smiled at her and nodded his agreement.

Jean opened her eyes wide, genuinely surprised. I’d love to cover it—thank you, she exclaimed. Exclusively? How had Owen managed that? For a moment she wondered if Ted had a prurient interest in her—she was in her early thirties, five ten and fit, and her hourglass figure meant she often had to consider this possibility in her interactions with men. She dismissed the thought—she wasn’t getting the right vibes from Ted, and besides, she’d seen photos of his wife. Covering the tasting also meant she would get free meals and good wine for an entire weekend, not an unimportant consideration given the state of her finances.

Are you familiar with the wines I’ll be pouring? Ted asked.

Owen showed me the list. It had made her groan with longing.

Owen tells me you have a good grasp of sweet wines in general, but that won’t be enough for my purposes, Ted said. I expect you to do some serious research on Sauternes before the tasting.

Jean didn’t like his lecturing tone, but under the circumstances she figured she could put up with it. Of course, she said politely. I’ll be well prepared.

The three of them discussed the logistics of the tasting as they finished their sandwiches. One more thing, Ted added as they drank coffee. I’m aware that you wrote about those murders you were involved in earlier this year. There was a murder in Valle de los Osos a couple of months ago, but I don’t want any mention of it in your article. Is that clear?

Again the lecturing tone. Ted was shaping up to be kind of a prick. Sure, she said. Who was killed? Did you know the victim? Another thing she had an unhealthy interest in was murder.

A local girl. I didn’t know her. Ted glanced at his watch, a complicated gold timepiece with four smaller dials on its white and blue face. Jean strained to read the brand name—Vacheron Constantin. Never heard of it. But then Jean wasn’t into watches. She wore a black and white plastic Swatch.

Well, this has been delightful. Ted stood up. Right now I have another appointment. Chencho is waiting downstairs to take you back to your office. He walked Owen and Jean to the elevator, and they shook hands. It’s been a pleasure to meet you, Jean, Ted said. I’m sure I won’t regret choosing you for this assignment.

I look forward to it, she said.

She and Owen got into the elevator. So what’s up? she demanded as soon as the doors closed. I thought Kyle was covering that tasting.

He was, but Ted asked to meet you, Owen said. It seems he liked your coverage of the TBA tasting in Los Angeles.

Jean thought that made sense. TBA—Trockenbeerenauslese—was the finest German dessert wine, just as Sauternes was the finest from France.

Anyway, the least I can do is send the reporter he asks for, since he’s letting us cover the tasting exclusively, Owen said.

"How the hell did you swing that? Doesn’t he want Parker and Wine Spectator and the rest of the big guns to be there?"

Owen looked away uncomfortably. I’m letting Ted have final say on the articles and photos, he muttered. The other editors wouldn’t agree to that.

"You what?" Jean exclaimed. That means the story will say whatever he wants, no matter how the tasting comes out.

Get a little perspective, Jean. This tasting is historic. We can sell a lot of ads against that article. I’d advise you to get off your high horse and think about the wines you’ll be drinking.

Jean sighed. He was right. She’d have to put up with a lot more editing than usual and possibly wholesale rewriting, but it was worth it to try the wines. She ran through the list in her head. This tasting was going to be better than sex—almost.

As they exited the hotel, a tall black man in a red doorman’s uniform with gold epaulets directed them around the corner to Mason Street, and Jean spotted the Maybach pulled up next to the building’s service gate. Chencho got out to open the back door.

It was a cool, clear day, and Jean gazed out over her adopted city, struck once again by its ever-changing beauty. As they came abreast of the car, she glanced up. A large dark shape hurtled toward them from above. Whoa! she exclaimed. She stepped back quickly, instinctively pulling on Chencho’s sleeve and forcing Owen back with her other arm. A moment later the falling object slammed into the roof of the Maybach with a horrific crashing thud, crumpling the top of the car and spraying them with glass. Several airbags deployed with muffled explosions.

It was the body of a man, face down. Jean recognized the cowboy boots of the stalker they’d seen earlier in the lobby. One of his mangled legs hung down over the rear passenger door, right where Chencho had been standing. A woman screamed and people ran toward the Maybach.

My God, Owen said, gripping Jean’s arm. Are you OK? Is anybody hurt?

I think I’m OK, Jean said. She realized she was trembling and took a few deep breaths. Owen edged over to the man on the roof of the car. Is he dead?

Has to be, Jean said. Look at the angle of his head. She brushed small crumbs of safety glass off her clothes; the two men did the same. Where did he come from? She looked up at the side of the building, but could see nothing out of the ordinary.

Chencho, pale and shaken, ran his hands over his face. Jesus, that was close, he said. I owe you one, Ms. Applequist.

A small crowd gathered around the car. Are you three all right? asked the tall doorman. His nametag said William.

Yeah, we’re fine, Owen said. More or less.

William walked over to the crushed car and searched for a pulse on the man’s bloodied wrist. Yeah, he’s dead, he said after a few seconds. I called the police. You should stay put until they get here.

I need to sit down, Jean said. I think we all do.

OK, go back into the lobby, William said. I’ll stay here and keep people away.

The three of them walked slowly back to the hotel entrance and went inside. Jean felt cold and disoriented, as if she were in shock. The two security men who had thrown the stalker out hurried past them, headed for the Maybach. Sirens grew closer as they sat in a deserted corner of the lobby.

I need to tell Mr. Lyon what’s happened, Chencho said.

"What did happen? Owen said. Did he fall? Did he jump? Did someone push him? He took out his cell. I have to call my wife. What a hell of a thing. I’ve never seen a dead body before."

Me neither, Chencho said.

Jean said nothing—she’d seen more than one.

Chencho walked toward the elevators and Owen went outside. Jean pulled her new cell from her purse. She hated cell phones, but had finally broken down and bought one. It wasn’t a smart phone, but it did the job. It was just after two o’clock. Jay Zeppo Zeppetello, her current boyfriend, was a student at the University of California at Davis. He would be in class now—she’d call him later. She phoned her office and asked for Kyle, the managing editor.

Look at the local news online, she told him. We were about to get into Lyon’s car when somebody fell on it. He’s dead.

No way! he exclaimed. You OK?

Yeah, we’re fine. But don’t expect us back any time soon.

Who was it?

Don’t know. Some guy who was trying to see Lyon earlier today. Jean saw two uniformed officers enter the lobby and look around. I have to go. The cops are here.

OK. Keep me posted.

Jean stood and approached the policemen. She could feel an adrenaline rush as she remembered the dead man’s words: He’d wanted to warn Ted Lyon. Warn him of what?


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Recensioni dei lettori

  • (2/5)
    Typical "locked room/house/town" similar to Louise Penny. Found the amateur sleuth a little unbelievable -- really a wine reporter who keeps stumbling upon dead bodies. I also really dislike that the book doesn't end when the major mystery is solved; oh but fabricate a subplot so we can add 100 more pages and call it a book not a short story.
  • (5/5)
    I enjoyed the book mainly because my son-in-law and my daughter-in-law are kind of wine snobs and since the story revolved around a journalist who works for a Wine Magazine and a wine tasting hosted by a wealthy man, I was drawn to this story. The journalist was also an amateur crime slooth made for an interesting read since there were a number of murders that took place within this story. Parts were a little unbelieveable but all in all raqther exciting.
  • (3/5)
    I found this book to be very methodical. It was easy to know what was going to come next. The amateur detective is a little unlikeable. She is a journalist who is supposed to be on assignment to write an article about a tremendous wine collection. I wish the author hadn't made her loose moral fiber such a big topic in the story. It gets a little more unbelievable when people start dying off and she is somehow the lead investigator, or so it seems. It is an easy read and kind-of enjoyable. I was just hoping for more substance.
  • (4/5)
    A bit like Falconcrest meets Agatha Christie.. light hearted entertainment of the lives of the rich and famous :) Some of the characters were somewhat annoying but overall I liked most of them - to me the characters are the most important part of a book. Three & a half starts for me :)
  • (2/5)
    If you are into debauchery and hedonism this book is for you and naturally the author had to include crude language to make it more real. Typical story about the rich and not so famous, hanger ons, etc. Some of the above had to think they were outside the law and so murder seemed to be the answer at the time. Fairly predictable story line with no real surprises. I must say the author either did a lot of research on the excesses of the life style or is well versed. The women who wasn't a law enforcement helped solved the crime. She had sex with about anybody that looked her way. I would be a fool to say that there aren't many like her. Sad how the immorality of the day is a focus of a book. I would have given this one star but for the fact that the author is a good writer. Too bad.
  • (3/5)
    This was an easygoing reading. A bunch of people were invited by a very rich and self-centred man for some wine degustations at his vast home. A journalist who is also an amateur detective and her friend as a photographer were there to make a big story for a wine magazine. Already before the degustation's weekend as well during and after the event there were several murders which soon made clear that they were related to each other. Half away through the story it was clear who the evil ones were and therefore the suspence was unfortunately broken. The second part wasn't so gripping anymore.
  • (4/5)
    This book is about a wine tasting that goes horribly awry. Jean is a writer that is invited to a once in a lifetime wine tasting and eagerly accepts and also gets her friend Roman a seat at the tasting as a photographer. Jean's boyfriend Zeppo does not want Jean to go, but understands what a great opportunity for her. Soon after arriving, Jean soon realizes that Zeppo may have been right when people start dying under mysterious circumstances. As the story progresses, Jean loses more and more friends and is more determined than ever to get to the bottom of it. This was a really good book that surprised me at the end, just the way I like it.
  • (5/5)
    Vulture au Vin offers a fine modern-day mystery, set in California’s beautiful wine country, with all the intrigue, red herrings, and multiple reasons for murder you might expect in an Agatha Christie novel; plus a veritable feast for the senses—-sights, sounds, scents, tastes and sensually physical, unquestioning romance. If you like wine, you’ll love the glorious wine-tasting, with ancient delights, some corked, some wonderfully aged to make the palette soar. If you like love, you’ll find a woman too easily tempted, a man too hurt to try, a youth rejected by his father... If you’re looking for hope and forgiveness you’ll see it entangled with mercy and guilt. And if genuine mystery tempts you, the growing body-count will surely draw you in.A worthy successor to Lisa King’s Death in a Wine Dark Sea, Vulture au Vin takes wine-writer Jean, whose tastes outpace her finances, to the beautiful home of an oil billionaire. A once-in-a-lifetime tasting of vintage Sauternes is about to take place. But youthful Zeppo’s not too sure about his partner’s trip, given a recent death connected with the mansion. Still, Jean can’t resist, of course.The result is an explosive mix of high finance, fine art, love, duty and power, all setting the stage for death and disaster, all set against a backdrop of beauty, with vultures flying overhead. Once everyone’s been tempted, the testing and tasting begin, and the novel explodes into action, followed by suspense, tense drama, suspicion and more. Can friendship survive? Can hope? Can love? Can art?Wise, wonderful and fun, Vulture au Vin is a pleasing mystery with fantastic location, great characters, plenty of heart, and even some good food for thought. It stands alone, but if you’ve not read Death in a Wine Dark Sea, you’ll want to pick it up as soon as you finish. And if the author writes more in this series I shall certainly want to pick them up too.Disclosure: I received a free bound galley from the publisher and I offer my honest review.
  • (5/5)
    I received an advance review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This was a very enjoyable read with many twists and turns throughout including murder with several sub-plots. The main character, a freelance writer, covers a winetasting weekend. She is very knowledgeable about wines and has an appetite for good wine, good food, fast cars, and sexy men. She has a hot and sexy boyfriend who is kind and very, very understanding. I especially enjoyed the author’s colorful descriptions of this beautiful area of California, its flora and fauna. I’m anxious to read the author’s next book. This is an excellent book and I recommend it.