Decanting a Murder (Sommelier Mystery #1) | by Nadine Nettmann | Publisher: Midnight Ink, 2016 | 230 pages | ISBN 9780738756400
Katie Stillwell focuses on two things in her life: work and practicing for her Sommelier Certification with her blind tasting group. The exam was supposed to be the hardest part of her week, but that was before a body was found at an exclusive Napa Valley winery party.
When all the evidence points to Katie’s best friend, the outspoken and independent Tessa, Katie drops everything to clear Tessa’s name. Using her deductive wine skills, she tries to track down the real killer. But when repeated attempts are made on her life, Katie discovers that everyone’s secrets must be uncorked—including her own.
Why I Picked This Up
I actually encountered the second book in this series “Uncorking A Lie“ while at work (basically the story of every book I come across) and once I realized it was part of a series I was slightly hellbent on finding the first one. Needless to say, this was indeed a cover/title grab.
A Bit of a Preface
I shall preface this review by stating that I am not a huge mystery fan so my standards for most mystery books, especially murder mysteries, are rather low. I usually end up guessing “who done it” (correctly more often than not) within the first chunk and after that the whole plot-line just feels pointless and rather meh to me. However, I do find myself enjoying how most mystery authors write since I am a sucker for a well described setting. Now, on to the review!
★Writing Style |✮Plot | ✮Character Development | ★Setting |★Uniqueness
(in case you’re wondering: ✮ = 1/2 star)
Even though I did manage to guess who the guilty party was in this murder mystery very early on I didn’t instantly lose interest. Nettmann has a very, very, lovely writing style and I deeply enjoyed her description of settings, aromas, and emotions. I chuckled reading about the Katie’s parking struggle in the Sunset district of San Francisco and could heavily relate to her drive to figure out who was setting up her best friend to take the fall for a murder she potentially did not commit. Even more, I also felt Katie’s pain at failing her Sommelier Certification exam (seriously, this happens in the first few pages so I don’t count it as a spoiler) and how that throws her into a spiral of self-doubt. I’m also incredibly guilty of falling into spirals of self-doubt when I fail at something I’m incredibly passionate about.
I had fun learning about the wine industry and the winemaking process through Katie’s experiences and interactions with the other characters. It was definitely a very unique approach to a subject that I never really gave much thought to beyond tourism (growing up in SF whenever someone mentions wine you instantly think: Napa/wine train/wine tasting/I really should plan a day trip up there). I also found it very unique that each chapter starts off with a wine-pairing. I feel as if the older I get the more I should start investing in fancy, or at least semi-fancy, wine and I did jot down a few of the ones I’d like to try out.
Now, this potentially has to do with me guessing who the guilty party was early on in the novel, but I felt as if the plot was just a little bit too cookie-cutter for me. I felt as if the usual “this will throw the reader off the trail” pieces were too apparent and as a result, I started to feel my attention wavering. There were certain events that just felt a little bit out of place or slightly unbelievable – the majority of which involve a certain detective and potential love interest. There was also the big reveal of Katie’s ~huge secret~ which fell incredibly flat and honestly, felt incredibly pointless in comparison with the rest of the story.
I also wish Nettmann had spent a tad bit more time developing some of the supporting characters. I absolutely loved the amount of time Nettmann spent on Katie and Tessa’s friendship and on each of them as individuals. It’s apparent that Tessa is a very pivotal figure in Katie’s life. However, there are other pivotal figures in Katie’s life that I wish had received some more page time; such as the members of her blind tasting group. I’m going to keep my fingers crossed that the reason as to why they didn’t make as many appearances, except for toward the very end, is because they are more prominently featured in the next book in this series. There’s also the mention of a past relationship between Katie and one of her group members that I really wish had either been introduced sooner or not at all. The whole moment felt like it was going to go somewhere and then *bam* book ends. Ugh.
Final Thoughts & Recommendations
Despite the ~meh~ stuff of this book I did find it to be a very cozy/quaint mystery that showcases some rather interesting aspects of the wine industry.
I would definitely recommend this book to people who;
- are fans of cozy mysteries
- like fiction books that center around wine
- are looking to get into lightweight mystery/thriller novels
Let me know if you’ve read this book before and what your thoughts on it where!