Friday, June 25, 2010

Book Review: The Merlot Murders

I am privileged to reside in wine country. Rolling vineyards dot the fields above and below the ridge, vines vibrant with new leaves and growing grapes. Wineries proliferate, offering daily tastings and tours just a stone's throw from my townhouse.

And I don't live in California. So I shouldn't have expected The Merlot Murders (Wine Country Mysteries, Book 1) to take place in Napa, but I did!

The setting is, instead, the wine country of Virginia, which, I will admit with chagrin, I had not realize existed until now. Our heroine, Lucie Montgomery, returns home to her family's vineyard near the Blue Ridge Mountains. Her homecoming is tinged with sadness, for her father has died, and she finds their once-thriving vineyard and home in a shambles. To top it off, there is a new manager, hired by her late father, with a brusk attitude and dubious background.

When someone else dies under suspicious circumstances, Lucie finds herself embroiled in a drama which threatens her family, vineyard and her life!

The plot moves along nicely in Ellen Crosby's debut novel of the series. Lucie is likeable, and the other characters are drawn believably. Crosby investigates the inevitable issues surrounding a homecoming, and the setting and hints at Civil War history help make the scene come alive. There's even maps, and I just love maps!

Memorable Morsels:
  • Pig roast 
  • Sugar cookies 
  • Double chocolate died-and-gone-to-heaven cheesecake
  • Buttermilk fried chicken
  • Reuben, "vegetarian on croissant," iced tea
  • Cheesecake
  • Peach pie
  • Latte (with hazelnut or chocolate)
  • Gooseberry jam
  • Grilled lamb with fresh berry sauce
  • Salsa, goat cheese and tuna omelet(!)
Links to Investigate Further:

Buy the Book: The Merlot Murders
Author's Page on LibraryThing 
Book's Page on LibraryThing

The Final Analysis:

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tuna and Sweetcorn Baguette

This deliciously cool sandwich is inspired by the one Ted served to Jude at the pub in Fethering, in Simon Brett's The Body on the Beach. Being from the American side of the pond, I'd never heard of putting corn in tuna salad before. I poked around a little online and found this recipe at The Fair Trade Cook Book. I modified it a bit, and converted the measurements to US.

I liked it. It was very cool and fresh. I'm used to dill relish in my tuna salad, which I left out in this case, in faithfulness to the recipe. I will admit that I missed it's tangy-ness. The next time I'll put the relish in with the corn as well.

The recipe below contains my modifications. A note about the mayonnaise: the original recipe called for 100 ml, which I converted to about three ounces, or 1/3 cup. It was too much. For the recipe below I modified it down to 1/4 cup, but the photos were all taken with the batch using the bigger 1/3 cup of mayo. Use your judgment, depending on how moist or dry you like it.

  • 1 loaf baguette
  • 10 ounces tuna, canned, drained
  • 1 cup corn, frozen
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
Slice the baguette lengthwise. Then, slice into four sections. Toast if desired, and set aside.

Put the frozen sweetcorn ina bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to stand for 2 - 3 minutes, until thawed. Drain. The corn will be thawed but cool, not hot.

Into the corn, add the tuna and mayonnaise. Mix together and season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

When ready to serve, divide the tuna mixture between the four bottoms of baguette. Top and enjoy.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Book Review: The Body on the Beach

The Body on the Beach by Simon Brett (Berkley, 2000) is the first installment of the Fethering Mysteries featuring retired government worker Carole Seddon and her new bohemian next-door neighbor, Jude.

Carole has carved out for herself the perfect retirement in the right neighborhood of the most respectable seaside community of Fethering. Her day is regimented. Friends never call without a day or two's notice. She is a stickler for exactitude in matters of truth. Then one day, two things occur to turn her carefully crafted world topsy-turvy. She finds a body on the beach while taking her dog for his dawn walk. And Jude moves in next door.

Brett's story is interesting and moves along at a good pace. The characters of the locals in Carole's world are well drawn, and you can detect him setting the framework for future stories involving them. The story is told from both Carole and Jude's points of view, which helps to develop both characters and their relationship. The very minimal involvement of law enforcement seemed a bit far-fetched, and I hope to see a better relationship with the local inspector develop as the series moves forward.

Memorable Morsels:
Links to Investigate Further:

Buy the book: The Body on the Beach: The Fethering Mysteries
Author's Page on Wikipedia
Author's Website
Author's Page on LibraryThing
Book's Page on LibraryThing

The Final Analysis: