Autumn has come to Cedar County. It’s harvest time. The trees and vines in the orchards and vineyards are heavy with ripening fruit. For the tourists flocking to the tasting rooms of the region’s vineyards, the landscapes and seascapes provide an elaborate tapestry of rich colors and textures.
However, there is one discordant note in this pastoral splendor, the crumpled body of an international wine maven has been discovered in a steeply terraced vineyard of merlot grapes. As Sheriff Ray Elkins quickly discovers, the roots of this crime run from the legendary chateaus of Burgundy to the exclusive watering holes of Chinese billionaires.
“Murder in the Merlot” by Aaron Stander (Writers and Editors, $15.95) is the eighth paperback book in his popular series set in northern Michigan starring Sheriff Ray Elkins. He’s called to a crime scene when a woman’s body is found along a road near the terraces of a vineyard of Merlot grapes. International wine expert Gillian Mouton had scheduled an event at a local winery and was doing research on a story. Elkins and his crew face a real challenge as they try to track down her murderer. There are numerous suspects, including an estranged brother, a former lover and other associates. Various clues point in different directions, but there are many hidden secrets and a devious killer. The author has created a strong cast of characters and uses an intriguing secondary plot to make them even more believable.
This is a fast-paced, entertaining, well-researched police procedural that should be a strong candidate for the Michigan Notable Book Awards.
Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed crime novels and Michigan books regularly since 1987.
It's taken more than two decades, but the surviving members of the Leiston School Winter Adventure Group of 1990 are finally reunited. The intimate gathering opens with the renewal of old friendships at a private Lake Michigan estate near their old school. But the alcohol-fueled camaraderie soon melts away as old rivalries begin to surface, as do old secrets — one old secret in particular. Twenty-five years ago, this group headed into an Upper Peninsula wilderness for a winter camping adventure. They ended up stranded and cut off for days by a huge winter storm. When they were finally rescued, hungry and frostbitten, their instructor was missing and so were the facts.
Now, as the group assembles for a late morning brunch, someone else is missing. A search by the former students leads to the discovery of a body, and Ray Elkins, the local sheriff, is called in to investigate. But just like the first time, what happens at Leiston stays at Leiston, and Elkins is greeted with hostility and a pact of silence.