Sacred Vines

A Finger Lakes Wine Mystery

Fiction - Mystery - General
259 Pages
Reviewed on 06/05/2019
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite

Sacred Vines by Don Stevens is a murder mystery that starts with a blaze (literally) in the Finger Lakes region of central New York state. This is the third installment of Stevens' Finger Lakes Wine Mystery series, preceded by the well-received A Taste For Death, and the series prequel, Bitter Harvest. Sacred Vines reads as a stand-alone, immediately diving into action with what is hoped to be an accidental death when a young woman's car is engulfed in flames and driven into the lake. Aside from being terribly tragic, it is negatively impacting tourism in the region which is driven by the wineries, including the Hollingsworth family, who have experienced tragedy themselves. It's left to Investigator Louis Deville, with the help of Reginald Scudder, to string together what is really going on in the Finger Lakes region among a cast of varied, interesting, and wonderfully fleshed-out characters.

Don Stevens has written a wonderful piece of fiction with Sacred Vines, bringing to life a region that should be far better known in real life, and turning it into a glorious setting for a murder mystery. The narrative is excellent and flows consistently throughout. I particularly loved the dialogue which felt authentic but maintained an air of genuine wit. The unraveling of the mystery is done with the skilled hand of an experienced author, slowly peeling back the layers and—as all good fiction does—throwing in a spanner the moment you think, just maybe, you've worked it out. I'd absolutely recommend this book to those looking for a fresh and modern twist to a classic formula, the likes of which readers of Agatha Christie and A.E.W. Mason will enjoy.

Lesley Jones

An autistic boy stands at the side of Conesus Lake, admiring the splendor of a falling meteor, when suddenly the screams of a young woman are heard. As her car, engulfed in flames, crashes into the lake, the same place where a young boy drowned a few weeks previously, the quiet town of Lakeview is once again the center of a mysterious death. Was this murder or suicide? There seems to be only one man experienced enough to investigate this mystery. Louis Deville arrives in Lakeview, but when he tries to question the people who knew the victim, he comes face to face with resistance from possible witnesses who seem to be hiding something. As events unfold, Deville is forced to face his painful past. He also discovers that the town holds the key to some horrific truths that extend much further afield than Conesus Lake.

Sacred Vines by Don Stevens is a totally gripping read and the author has an undeniable talent for triggering all of your senses with his narrative; 'stench of burning metal marshmallow'. Each of the characters was so diverse and unique. They all possessed such depth with dark secrets which they are hesitant to reveal, but Deville does an amazing job of peeling them away, little by little. I loved how Deville embarked on his own personal journey to reconcile his painful recollections as the flaws in his personality made him so human and likable. I thought the relationships between the characters developed perfectly. The twists and turns in the plot kept me guessing until that climactic scene at the end when all was revealed. The author also has an incredible ability to lead you down one path, only to uncover more information that leads to another conclusion. The dialogue was a superb reflection of the characters' personalities too. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and by the end, I was left wanting to know more about the future of the characters.

Deborah Lloyd

Investigators Louis Deville and Reginald Scudder were summoned to the picturesque town of Lakeview in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. The town featured a winery and a monastery that had once housed a children’s orphanage. When a flaming car sped down the hill into Conesus Lake, its driver did not survive. Sergeant Adder, from the Geneseo police station, asked for their assistance in determining if this was an accident or suicide but it soon became apparent that a murder had occurred. As the investigation went on, Deville and Scudder learned a great deal of information about the relationships and possible motivations of many of the townspeople. Author Don Stevens has written an intriguing mystery novel in Sacred Vines: A Finger Lakes Wine Mystery.

There are many characters in this storyline, and each person is described with much detail; it is easy to picture each one. One example is that the young man Dudley, who has autism, is realistic. How he views the world and how he copes with its complexities are authentic. Another interesting aspect of several main characters is how the current events tie in with life experiences from the past – from the main character who spent a few years of his childhood in the orphanage to a nurse who has a questionable work history. There are many twists and turns in this book, making it a real page-turner. The reader is engaged from the first page to the last. Sacred Vines: A Finger Lakes Wine Mystery is a captivating, entertaining read; this is a series to enjoy.