A twisty little mystery involving a secret wine cellar.
Mark Rollins is one of the blessed: He’s retired but picks and chooses mysteries to unravel. He’s rich, well-connected and has a cadre of smart, loyal employees who toil at his secret, high-tech intelligence-gathering operation, situated in the backrooms of his women’s health club in Nashville, Tenn. The mystery involves a gorgeous partner in a law firm who’s getting serious grief from a number of the other partners, each and every one “an asshole,” including her ex-husband, her relatives and a local cop who ran over her dog. Collins keeps the story motoring with writing that is frank but not scant, muscular but not tough-guy, something akin to the 1960s TV show The Man from U.N.C.L.E. He artfully drops hints that things are not as they seem, but he can also be clunkily explicative: “I understand Ann. I’ve read David Buss’ work on evolutionary physiology, and according to him…” and strangely abrupt: The victim takes Mark into her confidence though she doesn’t know him from a backhoe. There’s precious little shading of character—each is the epitome of whatever: creep, babe, good guy, especially Mark, who leads a Panglossian, unfettered existence. Still, when the great cache of wine enters the picture and then a roaring storm comes down to swamp the landscape and the cellar, Collins deftly moves the story forward, and frankly, the reader really wants to know what happens to the wine more than Ann, Paul and the rest of the no-goods. Collins has a nice way of evoking Tennessee, its pace and proprieties and politics, from the spicy Zumba rhythms of a local club to the breeching banks of the Cumberland River.
Somewhat formulaic but nonetheless fun and atmospheric Southern murder mystery.