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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.