June  2012 – The Permanent Press

As DEATH IN A WINE DARK SEA begins, we find our protagonist, Jean Applequist attending the wedding of her good friend Diane Shifflett to wealthy businessman, Martin Wingo, aboard Martin’s yacht. Though Jean doesn’t like Martin, her friend seems happy, so she tries to enjoy the food, drink, and sunset cruise below the Golden Gate Bridge. The happy event turns tragic quickly when Martin falls overboard and can’t be found. Late that night Jean receives a cryptic call from Martin, saying he was pushed overboard and that he has to go meet someone before he can come home. Relieved but curious, Jean, Diane, and the police eagerly await Martin’s return. But morning comes, he never shows, and a fisherman finds his body still in the water. Diane is devastated and the police accuse Jean of making up the phone call and hampering their investigation.

Diane asks Jean to investigate Martin’s murder in an effort to protect people Martin had blackmailed before a brush with death reformed him. Jean teams up with Zeppo, Martin’s former assistant in charge of special projects’ who has already begun looking into former blackmail victims-turned-suspects. As the two delve into the seedy underbelly of business, they have several close calls, making it clear that some people would rather their secrets had died with Martin. But are they closer to finding the killer? And can Jean and Zeppo stay a step ahead, or will they be next?

Like Jean, author Lisa King has written for a wine magazines, and wine enthusiasts will likely enjoy the details and wine expertise she folds into the story. But if (like me) you know next to nothing about wine, fear not, you don’t need to be a sommelier to enjoy the plot twists, thrills, or Jean’s unconventional sex life. Great pacing, complex characters, and the juicy details of people’s darkest secrets make for a book I couldn’t put down. I’m sure I won’t be alone in hoping for more of Jean and Zeppo.

Bridget Crean-Williams

Each issue of Crimespree features over a dozen pages of reviews of the latest crime fiction. From here on out, we will select specific reviews, from the latest issue, to feature online as well. This review appears in issue 47, which shipped earlier this month.