Here's another top-notch mystery from globe-trotting reporter-turned-novelist Peter Eichstaedt, who knows exactly what he's writing about then the subject is journalism. Or murder. Or wine, for that matter. "Napa Noir" is not just a pitch-perfect glimpse behind the scenes of Wine Country but it introduces us to investigative reporter-turned-wine editor Dante Rath. Best. Byline. Ever. I hope to see more of Dante Rath in upcoming installments.
Great plot! For me, the mark of a great mystery is that I don’t figure out “who done it” half way through the book. Why did Morrison kill Chao? Why kill your biggest investor? It made no sense beyond the obvious answer, ‘He wanted his money back’. The investigation kept the action moving, put the central character Dante’s life in danger and soon, I couldn’t put the book down. To be fair, I’m generally more a fan of character driven novels than plot driven, so the fact that it held my attention speaks to how well the plot was formed and the story told. The author paints a vivid picture of California wine country. I could almost taste the wine! It did start a bit slow, and as I said, the character development was a little light for my taste, so it was hard to care about the central character, Dante at first. I wanted to like him, but the author didn’t open him up and doing so would have turned this book from good to great. There was one minor character that was a bit more rounded out-Dante’s mother Antonia, who was quite interesting. The author hints at her story, and I suspect we will hear more about her in future books. All in all this was an enjoyable book, so if you’re looking for a very good mystery that will make you stay up too late because you can’t put it down, read Napa Noir. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series!
Thank you Wildblue Press for sending me a copy of Peter Eichstaedt's Napa Noir in return for an honest review. 3.5- 3.75 Stars
Napa Noir has a thrilling introduction. It opens with Chao Ling running for his life at Morrison Creek Winery. He is being chased by Bernie Morrison, who is trying to kill him. Chao had called the police, who arrived while Chao was still alive, but they had failed to save him. The cops shot Morrison down in response. I was into the fact that the mystery did not resolve around who killed Chao, but more on what caused Morrison to snap and kill Chao. Dante Rath, a journalist with a wine column, jumps at the chance to cover Chao and Morrison's murders. He wants to know what Morrison's motivations were. Dante had a tense history with Morrison himself. As Dante investigates the deaths of Chao and Morrison, he starts to uncover seedy business dealings in the wine world and discovers a deadly secret that some big shots in the wine industry would like to remain secret. The pacing for the most part was decently paced although there were points in the story where it seemed to lag. I feel that points where the story dragged it was due to the fact that Eichstaedt did not develop the mystery to be a convoluted mess and every chapter did not have a huge reveal. Sometimes the plot was bogged down by repetitive descriptions. For instance, Chao's sister Mei was described as being "disgusted" by her brother multiple times. It is never phrased as she speaks about Chao with disdain or Meil looked down on her brother's choices. The lack of word choice also gave me a strong clue as to the identity of the bad guys that orchestrated many of the events that took place. However, I did struggle with determining the motive. Eichstaedt did provide a red herring or two into Napa Noir, but these people were not entirely innocent. I appreciated how much I learned about the wine industry (business, legal, harvesting, etc). I did go into Napa Noir with very little knowledge about wine. I am interested in reading more of the Wine Country Mysteries series and seeing where the series go.
Napa Noir follows a wine columnist as he tries to decipher the reasons behind a local winery owner killing his biggest investor allowing himself to be shot by the police. Dante is your typical sleuth who wants to discover the "why done it" aspect of his case. The deeper he looks, the deeper the secrets of the Napa wine valley are unraveled, and the more dangerous his digging becomes.
Overall, the story was intriguing enough to me that I wanted to find out the ending and how the case would be solved. I also found myself becoming very interested in the details of the Napa Valley and the wine industry there. There were many things I did not know about that part of the country that I found really interesting, and compelling to have a mystery take place there. There were enough twists and unexpected events to keep the story interesting and fast paced. I was not too invested in the main character, Dante, however, and did not find myself caring either way what happened to him (and he also had an obnoxious tendency to comment on how attractive he found each female character). If that kind of thing does not bother you, than I do recommend this interesting mystery taking place in a unique setting. Even though I did not care for Dante too much, if the series were to continue, I might give another Napa mystery a chance!