This is the first installment in the Cypress Cove Mystery series. Penelope "Penny" Lively has left her job as a photojournalist and returned to Cypress Cove, CA to take over her Aunt Monique's Joyeux Winery after the woman's death. With the help of her niece Hayley and winery manager Connor, Joyeux is well on it's way to having a successful harvest and making a name for itself in the wine market.
As the 24th Annual Autumn harvest approaches, Penny is looking forward to having her wines entered into the by invitation only tasting contest. A knock on her door announces the arrival of neighboring winery owner and distant relative, Antonia Martinelli. Antonia tells Penny that somebody is sabotaging the Martinelli wines and doesn't know if it is one of her 3 children, their spouses or an employee of the vineyard. Antonia knows that being a photojournalist Penny has a reputation for her nosiness and begs her to help find the culprit.
This is a terrific debut with a likeable cast of characters, a great insight into the behind the scenes making of wines, and breathtakingly beautiful descriptions of the California wine country. A murder mystery that offers up plenty of suspects and a plot that keeps you interested from page one (with a little romance thrown in too).
I will be looking forward to the next in the series "Ripe For Murder", to see what adventures are in store for the Joyeux gang.
Penelope (Penny) Lively has inherited the family winery and after a little dust-up at her last job it is perfect timing. Her cousin Hayley has the degree in Viticulture and Connor manages the day to day tasks of the vineyard. Penny focuses on the business side of things. As a photojournalist she has a keen eye and takes some wonderful pictures that she sells as prints as postcards. Her keen eye is just what is needed to help Antonia Martinelli. The Martinelli winery and Penny's winery border each other. Antonia asks Penny to help her find out who is sabotaging their wine. With the Autumn Festival just days away, she desperately needs to cork up that issue right way. Penny agrees to help but before she has a chance to do anything one of the Martineeli staff is literally crushed and her cousin Hayley is the prime suspect.
This was an impressive debut for this series. I would have thought competing wineries would be more cutthroat but in this story the neighboring wineries work closely together. Not only does Penny try to help Antonia, they work together planning the festival and even seem to share temporary help. The victim was someone very well liked with a bright future. Penny was not only investigating to save her cousin but to find the killer of someone she respected.
The characters in this story were very interesting. Penny, Hayley and Connor are solid, relatable characters that will allow the series to succeed. The Martinelli family is quite a bunch. Antonia is ready to pass the winery on to her family, specifically to her son, but she isn't sure he is ready. Her oldest daughter, a lawyer, has a huge chip on her shoulder and thinks the winery should be hers. The youngest daughter has a set of problems all her own. This was a great supporting cast. I hope we see them again in future stories.
The plot of the story is a unique one with some clever and surprising twists, although it did go a little bit awry at that start. It was the little clues that I almost wrote off that pulled this whole mystery together. I was on the right track but it turned out to be much more than I ever imagined.
The author has left Penny holding back a very important tidbit and I wonder how long it will be before it is revealed to everyone. This has me anxious to read the next installment, Ripe For Murder, out on March 1. I was late to the party for this book. That won't be the case with the next one.