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 A first mystery from fantasy writer Relling (The Infinite Man, etc., not reviewed) introduces ex-Treasury agent Jack Donne, now partner with his widowed father in a winery in California's Santa Ynez valley. A much larger operation in the valley is O.C. Vineyards, owned by rich, ailing Perry Cole and run by sons Ozzie, June (for Junior), and Grant. Since he's on barely amicable terms with the Coles, Jack is surprised by a visit from Ozzie. Someone, it turns out, is counterfeiting O.C. Vineyards' most expensive wine, then selling a cheap blend in a perfect replica of the original's bottle. Aware of Jack's past experience, Ozzie persuades him to investigate. It's soon apparent there's more than a wine scam going on herein short order Ozzie's father, in an expensive nursing home, with faithful retainer Zeke Carlin in attendance, is dead, and Ozzie is charged with his murder. The Cole family lawyer, Dan Wikert, is next to go, luridly, as Jack, calling on a network of old contacts, uncovers the not-too-convincing motivation behind it all. Jack's decent if uncharistmatic, but far too much space is given to the minutiae of his daily life with Dadclothes, meals, decor. There's not much sparkle in the plotting either. Altogether, a competently crafted but lackluster debut.

Pub Date: Aug. 14th, 1995
ISBN: 0-8027-3262-3
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Walker
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1995