A transplant to the West Coast enjoys wine, gossip, and murder in Santa Monica.
Recently divorced Annie Hall, who goes by “Halsey” to distinguish her from Alvy Singer’s sometime squeeze, loves her new home in one of Los Angeles’ priciest neighborhoods, which she somehow manages to pay for with freelance computer apps work. Although the sight of suburban kids at Trader Joe’s makes her “want to get my tubes tied,” her new separate guesthouse and sparkling backyard pool more than compensate for the loss of urban vibe. And while the welcome from her nosy neighbor Marisol is less than enthusiastic, she soon finds herself embraced by the members of the Rose Avenue Wine Club, four feisty femmes ranging in age from 30-something to 87. Halsey’s first foray into their boozy, chatty meetings is a bust; she gets lost and winds up not at Peggy Blake’s neat cottage but Rosa Sobel’s house. Rosa, who isn’t even a member of the Wine Club, gives Halsey a particularly tepid reception because she’s lying dead out back. Although she’s not wild to investigate, Halsey does kind of feel she has to, since the police tend to blame her for Rosa’s demise. The Wine Club ladies help out, as does handsome dog trainer Jack Thornton, with eminently predictable results all around.
Blum packs way too much incident into her heroine’s debut. She also crams the nominative case into every place she can (“with Sally and I,” “I watched he and Rosa grow up”), a habit that may put off readers who remember the days when there was grammar.