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DYING ON THE VINE by Aaron Elkins


by Aaron Elkins

Pub Date: Dec. 4th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-425-24788-4
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime

Yet another lecture/vacation junket, this time in Tuscany’s wine region, turns into a murder investigation for forensic anthropologist Gideon Oliver and his unexpectedly helpful wife, Julie.

Eleven months after he disappeared during his routine monthly retreat to a cabin in the hills, Sardinian-born vintner Pietro Cubbiddu’s skeletonized remains are discovered at the bottom of a steep cliff by a passing hiker, along with those of Nola, his wife of 25 years, who’d vanished soon after. Elderly police pathologist Dr. Melio Bosco pronounces the case a murder-suicide: Pietro shot Nola to death then sent her over the edge and followed both steps himself. Luckily, Gideon Oliver happens to be on hand to give a forensic seminar and visit Julie’s old friend Linda Rutledge, whose husband, Luca, is one of Pietro’s three sons and successors. In short order, Gideon determines that nearly everything about Dr. Bosco’s reconstruction of the deaths is wrong. That turns out to be an important finding since a good deal depends on who died first and how, especially since Cesare, a son of Nola’s first marriage, is suing his stepbrothers—Luca, Nico and Franco, the eldest son who’s now running the winery—for financial and emotional losses. Nor can anyone be quite certain whether Pietro, on returning from the sabbatical he never completed, was going to accept a German brewer’s offer of €5.5 million for the family company, which certainly would have strained family ties.

A lot less tension for all hands than the unusually suspenseful The Worst Thing (2011). It’s nice to see Gideon back in southern climes enjoying the good life, even if he’s never cared for osso buco.