Title: Pinot Envy

Author: Edward Finstein

Category: Mystery

Published: July 16, 2013 by Bancroft Press

Rating: 2½ out of 5 stars

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Meet Woody Robins, a bon vivant, devil-may-care wine guru who specializes in investigatory work involving rare artifacts of a vinous nature. Amidst the backdrop of world-famous Napa, California wine country, and upbeat, cosmopolitan “city by the bay” San Francisco, Woody finds he’s bitten off more than he can chew when hired by a wealthy grape grower to retrieve his stolen, rare, priceless, large bottle of red Burgundy that once belonged to the French emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte. Tested by a colorful cast of characters, deceit, blackmail, intrigue, dealings with the mob and even murder ensue. With the help of his dozy boyhood chum, girlfriend, aunt and detective buddy with San Francisco’s finest, he eventually manages to unravel the case, but not before he learns a thing or two about himself.

I don’t know what necessarily makes a mystery good. Sometimes it’s the plot, sometimes it’s the characters, once in a while it’s the setting. In theory, Pinot Envy sounded like one I’d enjoy. It seemed like a quirk mystery, wine guru on the trail of a stolen bottle of wine, an amusing guy in over his head. But it didn’t work for me. It was rather – blah.

The man who hires Woody to find rare bottle of wine doesn’t seem to like or trust him, and the feeling’s mutual. He reminds Woody of his father, not in a positive way. I just didn’t see why he kept up with the search. He wasn’t really invested in the outcome. Yes, he wanted the money to help his aunt, but it seemed like a convenient excuse for the author to keep Woody working on a case that he should’ve dropped. Woody’s quite obviously in over his head.

The plot should have been gripping, but it dragged somehow. And Woody kept going on about how he lost his tape recorder. Do people even use tape recorders? At one point, I told my husband that what would really liven the book up wa a murder, but when the dead body showed up, the book still just didn’t click for me. Lots of characters, lots of possible motives, it should have been good, but it was mediocre.

The grand denouement was rather like a soap opera. Everyone’s dirty laundry gets aired and finally we find out who the thief/killer was, but that’s not the only person who ends up getting carted out by the cops.

And then the end just annoyed me. I don’t want to spoil it, but it’s a device that I don’t like, That almost nullifies the whole story. On the one hand, I guess it demonstrates the lengths people will go to based on suppositions, but it left me saying, “Really? Are you serious?” (And he does finally find the doggone tape recorder.)