Chef Maurice and the Wrath of Grapes by J.A. Lang
The Second Chef Maurice Mystery
A country manor, a raging snowstorm, a mysterious stranger, and plenty of wine: ingredients for a perfect murder!
Chef Maurice and his good friend, restaurant critic Arthur
Wordington-Smythe, are visiting Bourne Hall for a dinner and wine
tasting hosted by wine collector Sir William Burton-Trent. A handful of
other guests including a Californian director turned vineyard owner, the
granddaughter of a French wine family and her English husband, a wine
critic, and an elderly relative make up the party. Things are not quite
as jovial as they seem, however. When the cook discovers Sir William is
locked in the wine cellar and won't respond to her knocks and calls, she
fears the worst.
In the Chef Maurice Mystery series we see a return to the golden age of
detective fiction. More than the setting of a small village in the
Cotswolds filled with unique characters, Lang follows many of the
"rules" set out by these great authors, and does so in a natural manner. Lang is true to the rules of fair play. J.A. lays out
the clues and the reader has as much opportunity to solve the case as
Chef Maurice. A.A. Milne, in his rules for detective fiction, stated "There should be a Watson: it is better for the detective 'to watsonize' than soliloquize".* In Arthur
Wordington-Smythe we find Chef Maurice's Watson. The golden age authors were quite fond of locked room mysteries. In Chef Maurice and the Wrath of Grapes we get the special treat of having a locked door mystery within a closed room mystery! The victim is found in a locked wine cellar while our suspects are pretty much stranded in a country manor house.
J.A. Lang puts a smile on my face. Chef Maurice and the Wrath of Grapes is a fun clever novel. As a wine lover I quite enjoyed the focus on wines in this book and
found the wonderful descriptions of food compelling as well as the
different ways food is used. Food helps to solve one mystery and is also
used to barter. In addition to Chef Maurice (my new gastronomical hero) and the murder mystery, we also have the conundrum that is the relationship between Patrick and PC Lucy. What is she hiding? Is there another man? Should he be worried? Then there's the great fun that kitchen commis Alf brings. And I can't forget the wonderful Hamilton. I love that pig and the way Chef Maurice treasures him. Lang has created a world where I want to visit. With hints of farce that keep me smiling and, above all, a finely crafted mystery, Lang has written a great book in her most wonderful series.
* Milne's rules were published in a reprint of his only detective novel The Red House Mystery. For more information see Martin Edwards, The Golden Age of Murder HarperCollinsPublishers Great Britain 2015.
Go to J.A. Lang's website: http://www.jalang.net/chef-maurice-giveaway/ to enter this great giveaway!