Reptile Wines by John Hewitt

Reptile Wines

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In this romp through the world of Napa Valley, a winery tour guide sets out to prove that his cousin faked his death—and not for the first time.

When Miles Trout, a driver for Napa Ramblers Winery Tours, learns that his best friend and cousin, Lucky Stephan Tarpitz, has suddenly died, he’s not very shocked. After all, this isn’t the first time Lucky has mysteriously perished; he previously faked his demise to escape the wrath of the elderly trailer park residents he targeted in an investment scam. When Miles finds out that Lucky’s body rolled out of the SUV speeding it to the hospital and disappeared without a trace, he is determined to uncover what really happened to his cousin. Along the way, he is waylaid by the various colorful characters who inhabit the close-knit Napa Valley wine community, including Emelina Hawkins, Lucky’s hotblooded evangelical stepsister, who is determined to revenge herself on Miles after he abandoned her at a taco restaurant on a date; Lexi Winterhaven, an elegant older woman who co-owned a racehorse named Love Blisters with Lucky; and Angelina DellaContorni, Lucky’s loose cannon of a mother, a former Las Vegas showgirl who holds “kinky wild all-night debaucheries at her modest Napa home where she lives with a tattooed woman witch named China Rose.” In his zany novel, Hewitt (One Shoe: When a Gold Rush is Not Enough, 2015, etc.) has created a hapless yet lovable loser protagonist in Miles, who despite his unfortunate life choices seems to be the sanest person in Napa—though that’s not saying much. Hewitt’s prose, littered with deliciously bizarre dialogue and other vivid details, makes his larger-than-life world feel fit for the big screen. These include his hilarious descriptions of the various wines that are the lifeblood of Napa, such as “Women’s Desires Vin Gris with a nose of tarragon, and hints of pickle relish and muscle balm,” and “Desperado Rosé wine with hints of hibiscus and saddle leather.” Unfortunately, when a subplot concerning alien visitors to Napa kicks in, the already insane story goes completely off the rails.

An outrageously weird yet delightfully charming wine-country tale that unravels into pure silliness by the end.

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher
Program: Kirkus Indie
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