Wine enthusiasts and wine collections are targeted as the police and consultant Jake Halsey chase an inscrutable killer.
A man is found dead in his wine cellar courtesy of a cyanide and wine concoction, and Det. David Riley calls friend and colleague Halsey, a “civilian expert” and the protagonist of Edgerton’s mystery novel debut. The detectives working the case quickly tie the murder to other crimes, including arson, all of which relate to wine collectors. There’s a distinct pattern among the transgressions, the labor of a psychopath whose murders are undeniably, thematically crafty—wine is even used to embalm one of the victims. The authorities call on Halsey’s skills at analyzing evidence to prevent further loss of lives and wine. Halsey is a well-rounded character, given depth with a history of a wife and daughter killed by a drunk driver and, he learns, a personal association with the titular murderer. He’s also regrettably self-indulgent, prone to reciting his resume when given a chance and spending much of his early courtship of Dr. Catherine Taylor showing off his big-ticket collectibles, antique cars and aircraft. The story is at its best during the scenes of investigation, which are methodical and meticulous but never tedious. Details of the case are often reiterated, including numerous lists of locations or methods of murder, but the story is not repetitive and instead these feel like continuous updates. The detectives are shrewd, not merely trailing the killer’s progress but anticipating his next move as well. The investigation, in fact, proves more intriguing than the killer himself, who hides behind his anonymity in random narrative segments until the inevitable meeting of adversaries.
The identity of the killer may not be much of a surprise to readers, but the road to the revelation is exuberant and energetic.