Chef Maurice and the Wrath of Grapes
Chef Maurice Mystery, Book #2
By J. A. Lang
Author’s website: www.jalang.net
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
In the rarefied world of wine collecting, murder isn’t exactly a barrel of laughs…
An invitation to dinner at the home of renowned wine collector Sir William Burton-Trent soon finds Chef Maurice in the middle of an all-too-real murder mystery party, when Sir William is found dead in his own wine cellar.
The guests are acting all innocent, but which one is only playing the part? The pushy Californian film director? The seductive French winemaker?
Or could it be, against all narrative decency, the butler who did it?
With the help of food critic friend Arthur Wordington-Smythe, a large kipper sandwich, and the newly formed Cochon Rouge Wine Appreciation Society, Chef Maurice must get to the bottom of matters before events turn decidedly sour…
Chef Maurice and the Wrath of Grapes is the delicious sophomore entry in the Chef Maurice Mystery series. This book is such a fun, fluffy read, but do not be misled into thinking that the mystery is not strong. It is a well-crafted throwback to the locked room mysteries of the Golden Age of mystery. I think Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers would be proud of Lang’s tale.
Everything seems to be centered on all things wine in this outing. The restaurant staff is busy trying to figure out what is missing from Chef’s mulled wine recipe and kitchen assistant Alf will drink himself literally under the table in his efforts to get it just right. Arthur, who is Maurice’s long suffering yet loyal best friend, has reluctantly agreed to chair the newly formed Cochon Rouge Wine Appreciation Society. Chef Maurice and Arthur have been invited to attend a wine tasting and dinner at Sir William Burton-Trent’s, who has become quite the wine collector, home. Unfortunately, Sir Williams is found murdered in his own wine cellar before the dinner can even begin.
Who could have it in for Sir William – his sister-in-law, the visiting vintners from France, a famous (or infamous) wine critic, an American film star trying his hand at winemaking, a mysterious stranger seen in the restaurant, or, God forbid, the butler? Chef Maurice, with Arthur as his Watson, takes it upon himself to solve the crime. Well, perhaps they will allow PC Lucy to do some of the work. Thus sets up a comical investigation where all is not as it seems, including family secrets, financial difficulties, and secret passages.
Chef Maurice is a hoot, a bit annoying and oblivious, but I just cannot help but find him endearing. My favorite character, though, is Arthur. His steadfastness is charming, his exasperation with Maurice loving. The other recurring characters are quirky in their own right, but they balance each other so that they do not seem over-the -top. The suspects in this endeavor are a bit caricature like, but that makes them all the more entertaining. I was tickled when Hamilton, the micro pig from the first book, made an appearance. The secondary plot involving sous chef Patrick and PC Lucy’s budding romance was equally enjoyable, and I look forward to seeing where it leads.
Chef Maurice and the Wrath of Grapes is pure escapist pleasure, full of amusing situations and exciting twists and turns. Bring on the next adventure!