"Summer in French wine country - but murder's on the wine list"
Reviewed by Clare O'Beara
Posted July 19, 2015
This sixth book in the Winemakers Detective Series
lot to live up to - so far we've had murders both personal
and with historical resonance, wines ranging from classic
reds to artisan brandies. Can the vintners of France pull
off another great-tasting offering? MAYHEM IN MARGAUX
stars Benjamin Cooker, master vintner, and his assistant
Virgile who has an eye for the ladies. One lady strictly
off the list would be Benjamin's daughter, Margaux, now
Summer in wine country means heat, outdoor garden parties
and elegance. An unexpected drought causes concern about
the grape harvest. However the focus shifts abruptly when
Cooker's daughter Margaux is in a serious car accident;
crash may have been deliberate sabotage. Was she the
target, or the man who was driving her? Cooker drops
everything for his family and can count on Virgile's aid
help him get to the bottom of the situation.
I find it ironic that Cooker asks if the driver had been
drinking, when in earlier books we've seen him drive after
being well wined and dined. Maybe this is the two authors'
way of making a point - that they don't advise behaving
recklessly. In other ways too we see modern standards
intruding on the old country of the Medoc region.
Winemakers here treasure their secrets, traditional
and family employment, but the new commercial owners of an
estate want to sweep clean and produce more economically.
This has certainly produced enemies, whatever about wine.
Amid debate on whether to replace corks with metal screw-
caps, and exploitation of migrant workers, we find a
determined, human face to our senior vintner. Virgile too
patiently spends time with the injured Margaux, reassuring
her that there will still be a good life for her. While
wine tasting takes a back seat in this snappy novella, and
the weather's too hot for much but salads, MAYHEM IN
MARGAUX is classic vintage from the team of Jean-Pierre
Alaux and Noel Balen. You won't want to miss this exciting
chapter in the lives of Cooker and Virgile.
It’s summer in Bordeaux. There’s a heat wave, the
are suffering, vintners are on edge, and wine expert
Benjamin Cooker’s daughter is visiting. A tragic car
accident draws the Winemaker Detective and his assistant
Virgile into a case where the stakes are very personal,
they uncover some dirty secrets hiding behind some of
Bordeaux’s finest grand cru classé wines from Margaux.
ExcerptBenjamin drove at a moderate speed to enjoy the moment
and let Margaux take in the landscape of her childhood.
His daughter had been living in New York for three years,
and even though she was sometimes homesick, she didn’t
regret her decision. Her position as manager of a company
that imported gourmet foods from southwestern France had
been an opportunity seized at just the right time. The
salary was more than decent. Her two-room Greenwich
Village apartment was charmingly furnished, and she had
acquired close friends who made her feel at home in a
huge city where every moment was lived with intensity.
They passed through the villages of Cussac- Fort-Médoc,
Arcins, and Soussans and turned left toward Château
Margaux. Benjamin slowed down as he passed the sign and
kissed Elisabeth’s neck. Margaux! How many bottles had
borne her name! A name that for centuries had resonated
throughout Bordeaux and beyond like the promise of
The building loomed at the end of a road lined with tall
plane trees. Its sumptuous Palladian façade was a Greek
temple lost in a sea of emerald vines. It had been built
at the beginning of the nineteenth century by the same
architect who had designed the Bordeaux opera house.
Benjamin parked the convertible beside dozens of other
cars and gave Elisabeth and Margaux a few minutes to
brush their hair. They got out and followed the lamps
that lit their way to the gardens flanking the east wing.
With glasses in hand, guests were chatting happily.
Beyond the tables covered in ecru linen, gold-rimmed
dishes, and candelabras, a quartet was playing Baroque
music at a volume that complemented the atmosphere, a
sure sign that the musicians were experienced and highly
skilled in the art of providing background music. Every
member of Bordeaux’s elite winemaking society was here on
Benjamin could see Elisabeth and Margaux relax as they
took in the sea of guests and realized that they had
dressed appropriately for the occasion. The hosts had
wanted this dinner affair to be lovely but also
comfortable. Few men were wearing ties, and the women
were in light-colored linen suits and summer dresses with
Benjamin was immediately surrounded by property owners
who politely asked how he was doing but mostly wanted his
advice. Elisabeth greeted some of the wine merchants’
wives she had met at dinner parties and soon found Hubert
de Boüard and his wife, who were close friends and the
owners of a premier grand cru estate.
After managing to escape a paunchy banker who was worried
about his heavy investment in grand crus, Benjamin beat a
path to his wife, who was taking a glass of Champagne
from a server.
“Are you bored, my sweet?”
“Not in the least. Did you know that the Boüards are
leaving for Cap Ferret two days from now, just like us?
We’ll have to have dinner together.”
“I’ll leave all the planning in your capable hands,”
Benjamin replied as he waved to a couple whose names he
“Who is that handsome young man hanging around Margaux?”
Elisabeth asked, nodding in the direction of the
Benjamin looked over and tensed. A man who appeared to be
in his thirties was casually sitting on a table and
whispering in his daughter’s ear.
Margaux let out a laugh, revealing her perfectly white
teeth. For the first time, Benjamin was witnessing his
daughter in a game of seduction he could never have
“I think it’s Antoine Rinetti,” he murmured, his jaw
tight. “The new manager of Gayraud-Valrose.”
“He’s rather young to be in charge of such a château,”
Elisabeth said. Benjamin picked up a hint of admiration
in her voice.
“A Swiss insurance company bought the estate. They
brought him in to get the finances in order.”
“He’s not from here?”
“From Nice. Can’t you tell? Flashy suit, a tie that looks
like it cost close to a thousand euros.”
“You sound jealous, Benjamin. But your daughter is a
young woman now. And I think she has pretty good taste.”
Benjamin looked at Elisabeth and tried to smile. “Stop
teasing,” he said.
Although he had accepted Margaux’s transition to
adolescence and knew, at least intellectually, that she
was now a young woman, she was still his little girl. To
him, Margaux would always be the child with bright eyes,
rosy cheeks, and pixie nose hugging her teddy bear and
whimpering over the slightest boo-boo. The insistent gaze
of this young man in an Italian suit seemed indecent and
would have even been repulsive, were he not so handsome.
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