Sunday, August 12, 2012

France in June -- Champagne -- and Murder: Janet Hubbard, CHAMPAGNE: THE FAREWELL

This debut mystery from Virginia/Vermont author Janet Hubbard (now a professor at the University of Vermont) gives a delightful romp through both the bubbly beverage area and the protagonist's romantic life, as she takes a break from her NYPD detective work in the vineyards of the Valley of the Marne in Champagne, just half an hour outside Paris.

Max Maguire is both attractive and good at her job -- she already has her detective "shield" at age 29, which can't really be explained by her father Hank being a long-timer on the force. And while a trip to France may sound like a sweet opportunity for lovers, in her case it's just in time to absorb the disappointment of finding out a New York City cop has been majorly unfaithful to her.  In fact, the lover in question sends her a text, "we r over," as her trans-Atlantic flight is on the runway.

In France, though, one of the first men to catch her eye is Olivier Chaumont, a young "examining magistrate" -- the sort of judge who, in the French system, directs the investigation of a crime. Sparks fly and the two are just headed for an impulsive romp between the sheets when their hostess's aunt, Champagne magnate Léa de Saint-Pern, is murdered. Half her face has been crushed by a tremendous blow (any guesses on the weapon? if you're a champagne lover, you may already have a notion). And as Max and Olivier team up unofficially to track down the murderer, there are multiple strands of inheritance, family resentment, and sexual secrets to track.

Poisoned Pen Press brings us this lively mystery, and the title page promises a series: it's "A Vengeance in the Vinyard Mystery." I'm already wondering how Max -- who has half French heritage (her mom) and a mysterious unknown French grandmother -- is going to slip the bonds of NYC effort to get back to the ooh-la-la that makes her other life so delicious.

The author's website is; the book was released last week through retailers, had a "pop the cork" event at a wine shop, is touring with the author in Virginia in late August, and New Englanders can catch up on Sept. 27:
  • August 23rd - Wine tasting & reading at CORK; Waterbury, VT
  • September 27th - Book signing at Phoenix Books; Essex Junction, VT, 7 p.m
  • Early September:  launch party at Phantom Theater, Warren, Vermont
   Week of August 24th: reading in South Hill, Virginia (place to be announced).

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