One Foot in the Grape
A Cypress Cove Mystery #1
By Carlene O’Neil
Author’s Website: carleneoneal.com
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Daniele
In California wine country, the town of Cypress Cove may seem peaceful. But someone’s about to pop their cork…
After losing her job as a photojournalist, Penny Lively is trying to get her life back in focus. Inheriting the family winery from her late aunt may be the fresh start she needs. Thankfully she’s got her niece Hayley and her handsome winery manager Connor to help. But the person in need of more urgent assistance is Antonia Martinelli, the owner of the neighboring winery, who has her own barrel full of problems. Someone’s spoiling her wine, and with the upcoming Autumn Festival, she needs Penny’s nose for clues to sniff out the culprit.
But Penny’s search for answers sours after the body of a staff member is found in a grape crusher. Since Hayley was the last to see him alive, she’s the prime suspect in the case. Now Penny must hurry to find the real killer before Hayley withers on the vine… (Goodreads)
One Foot in the Grape is the first book in the Cypress Cove Mystery series, and it is a strong debut. Penny, who sees life best through the lens of a camera, has left her job as a photojournalist to embark on a new adventure. She has inherited her Aunt Monique’s winery, and with the help of her handsome manager Connor and her niece Hayley, she has settled into a good routine. Harvest is quickly approaching and the annual Autumn Wine Festival will soon be upon them. As if these were not enough to keep everyone busy, Penny’s distant cousin and neighboring winery owner Antonia comes to Penny with concerns that someone is sabotaging her wine and fears that it will be the end of the Martinelli wine legacy. She asks Penny to look into things at the winery, and Penny feels honor bound to accept. After all, what could go wrong?
During the course of talking to and observing people of interest, including Antonia’s children and manager, she has the misfortune of discovering the likable tasting room manager Todd in a grape crusher. Todd’s death definitely raises the stakes, and Penny feels that the murderer is someone very close at hand. The more she digs, the more secrets she unearths, and the more dangerous the situation becomes.
All of the characters are solidly constructed and well executed. Penny is curious by nature, and though trouble seems to find her, she is not one of those too stupid to live protagonists you sometimes find in cozy mysteries. She is impetuous yet logical in her approach to investigating. I enjoy her wit and sarcasm. Her friends Ross and Thomas, Hayley and Connor provide a good support system to Penny, and there is a hint of potential romance between Penny and Connor. The suspects were viable and easy to dislike – nervous daughter-in-law Veronica, wet blanket Stephen, vixen Chantal, spiteful Francesca, philandering Brice, and conniving Marvin. Their intermingling motivations kept me guessing for a good part of the story. Even when I thought I had figured out whodunit, I was unsure of his/her drive to commit such heinous acts.
O’Neil paints a vivid picture of California wine country and includes loads of winemaking tidbits that are well integrated into the story. I now totally want to take a wine touring vacation.
One Foot in the Grape is full of murder, sabotage, adultery, and wine. I really enjoyed this first book in the series and recommend it to any cozy mystery reader, especially those who love wine and a twisty plot.