Saturday, August 12, 2023

Review: Wined and Died in New Orleans by Ellen Byron

by Ellen Byron
Release Date: February 7, 2023
2023 Berkley
Kindle Edition; 304 Pages
ISBN: 978-0593437636
Audiobook: B09X8#GVHQ
Genre: Fiction / Cozy Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

Repairs on the property unearth crates of very old, very valuable French wine, buried by the home’s builder, Jean-Louis Charbonnet. Ricki, who’s been struggling to attract more customers to Miss Vee’s, is thrilled when her post about the discovery of this long-buried treasure goes viral. She’s less thrilled when the post brings distant Charbonnet family members out of the woodwork, all clamoring for a cut of the wine’s sale.

When a dead body turns up in Bon Vee’s cheery fall decorations, the NOPD zeroes in on Eugenia Charbonnet Felice as the prime suspect, figuring that as head of the Charbonnet family, she has the most to gain. Ricki is determined to uncover the real culprit, but she can’t help noticing that Eugenia is acting strangely. Ricki wonders what kind of secret her mentor has bottled up, and fears what might happen if she uncorks it.
My Thoughts
Wined and Died in New Orleans is the second book in this series and I thought ti was a fun read.  It picks up soon after the first book, and Ricki continues to work hard building her new business, a vintage gift shop in one of the local museums.  Repairs on part of the old house lead to a discovery of very old and valuable French wine buried by the original owner, a discovery that leads Ricki into an interesting mystery and to meeting many members of the Charbonnet family who are now coming out of the woodwork wanting a claim of the new fortune.  
Ricki is a likeable character, someone who makes friends easily, but also tends to question herself quite a bit due to her history and her previous marriage that ended in disaster.  Her gift shop features vintage cookbooks and I find this aspect of her job quite fascinating as I remember looking through my grandmother's old cookbooks when I was younger and laughing at some of the recipes, so I get the appeal.  Both of the books made reference to her parentage and as she is adopted, there is a mystery that is developing as a secondary story line, one that I find quite interesting, but has not yet taken center stage.  
The secondary characters are just as interesting as the main character. The witty dialogue and banter between them drew me into their world and I thought the author captured the cultural traditions of New Orleans very well through their interactions and their commentary.  I have only been there once, but I could visualize the places and sights through their eyes and I enjoyed revisiting the city in my mind as I read.  I enjoyed how the characters responded to situations as the story unfolded; yes, there was drama, but it wasn't silly and the characters had smart discussions about how the various situations would affect them, their jobs, and their businesses.  
The plot itself was fun and enjoyable.  The tension slowly built throughout the book, and though I had guessed who was the culprit, I amused myself by playing around with other possibilities, just in case I was wrong.  The author was good at throwing some red herrings along the way, and the twists and turns were interesting.  I always find it intriguing how one little comment can give away the whole plot of a story unintentionally, and that is what happened to me with this story.  It didn't take away from the fun of the book though as it allowed me to reflect more on the themes being presented in the book rather than just the mystery; death, grief, friendship, family relationships, family history, secrets, greed, trust issues, and regret all played a role in this book.  
Wined and Died in New Orleans was an engaging novel with a diverse set of characters and a story line that was interesting and intriguing.  It continued some of the themes from the first book, but was also contained its own mystery so could be read as a standalone, although I don't recommend it being read that way.  If you like to cook, there are also some vintage recipes to try out throughout the story that look interesting.  The writing style was engaging, the mystery was fun, and I definitely recommend anyone who is interested in cozy mysteries check this one out.