Author Ellen Crosby has uncorked a heady, suspenseful story in The Vineyard Victims, the eighth book in her Wine Country Mysteries series, set in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.
Crosby’s background as a journalist shows in the directness of her writing style—it could almost be called a workmanlike cozy—that ups the ante without diffusing the narrative. She refreshingly omits flowery prose, instead offering a sturdy plot and in-depth characters that enhance this colorful, complex page-turner.
The series’ central character, Virginia winemaker and vineyard owner Lucie Montgomery, is an eyewitness when her neighbor, vintner Jamie Vaughn, dies in a fiery car crash. The fatal accident occurs at exactly the same spot where Lucie herself suffered a disabling car accident years before, and the trauma of that event soon resurfaces.
Jamie’s last words to Lucie are a frantic plea that will embroil her in reviving a 30-year-old murder case that involved Jamie and several friends during their college years, although they were later acquitted after a local handyman was found guilty of the crime. Lucie uncovers the still-raw edges of the old murder, that of a brilliant academician whose career deeply impacted Jamie and his peers in grad school.
Jamie, a former politician and failed presidential candidate, had lived a privileged life, but Lucie hears rumors of financial improprieties and campaign mismanagement that could cloud his legacy. Lucie, however, seems alone in thinking that the accident could have been a suicide.
The Vineyard Victims nicely interweaves details about the lore and lure of wine making with escalating tensions as Lucie discovers new clues. Questions about whether Lucie will regain her peace of mind, plus hints about new characters who may appear in future books, add to this full-bodied and tempting read.