A satirical yarn traces the roots of a secret society monitoring and fiercely protecting the sanctity of alcoholic beverages.
At the core of Moser’s (T-Bull and the Lost Men, 2013) novel is a determined coalition of do-gooders self-charged with fighting the “unremitting evil in the marketplace of potable alcohol.” Calling itself the Flavor League, the 14-member consortium, founded to “bring justice to the murky, sleazy, down-and-dirty world of wine and spirits,” seeks to right the wrongs committed by wealthy and powerful entities seeking to control alcohol consumption and its social sophistication. The book provides a fictional history of the league’s inception in the 1980s and its development as a progressive entity through the activity of two integral members who met in 1987: San Franciscan wine tasters Margot Sipski and Brewster Hotte, the latter being the group’s divorced, oddball, freelance-writing 14th member. Margot is busy with an escalating career as a wine authority while Brewster, son of a dead vodka magnate, pines for her attention even with a tarnished reputation. The league emerges as a formidable presence in the libation landscape, primarily since operatives use a secret, long-acting powdered weapon called “MLII,” which strips targets of their ability to taste and smell, rendering them useless in the liquor marketplace. Befitting his two eccentric protagonists, Moser’s tone is comical and plucky, moving swiftly through the pair’s adventures. But in the author’s cleverly imaginative, semifuturistic world of spirits being exploited for sheer avarice, banks hiring senior astrologers, and vodka becoming the currency of kings, nefarious business practices are bound to churn. The stakes increase in this unconventional story when Brewster hears of his brother Jock’s new product line marketing things like a watered-down alcoholic beverage aimed at minors and children: “the ones who dream of having a drink.” The league knows Jock’s business is a prime candidate for MLII but hesitates to act. Still, Brewster and Margot employ an aggressive plot to stop Jock’s genetically modified vodka production project as other groups, like Univod, a powerful, politically connected vodka establishment, also come into the league’s cross hairs. Bartenders and sommeliers may particularly get a kick out of the frothy “alcoholic coup” bubbling at the droll novel’s climax; others might enjoy this lightweight entertainment with a stiff drink and an open mind.
A conspiratorial, character-driven, and fantastically creative tale of high-end liquor and outlandish melodrama.