Synopsis of Nose by James Conaway: In a gorgeous wine valley in northern California, the economic downturn has put a number of dreams on hold. But not so for wine critic Clyde Craven-Jones, a man whose ego nearly surpasses his substantial girth. During a routine tasting in advance of his eponymous publication's new issue, he blindly samples a selection of Cabernets. To his confounded delight, he discovers one bottle worthy of his highest score (a 20, on the Craven-Jones-on-Wine scale), an accolade he's never before awarded. But the bottle has no origin, no one seems to know how it appeared on his doorstep--and that's a problem for a critic who's supposed to know everything.
An investigation into the mystery Cabernet commences, led by the Clyde's wife, Claire, and a couple of underdogs--one a determined throw-back to ancient viticulture, the other a wine-stained, Pygmalion-esque scribbler--who by wit and luck rise on incoming tides of money, notoriety, and, yes, love. The stage is set for this true theater of the varietals--where the reader joins the local vinous glitterati and subterranean enthusiasts hanging out in a seedy bar called the Glass Act. Soon Clyde Craven-Jones finds himself in a compromised position in a fermentation tank, a prominent family finds its internal squabble a public scandal, and a lowly vintner seeks redemption for a decades-old wrongdoing. James Conaway's "Nose" is a witty, delectable, and fast-paced novel that, like a good Cabernet, only grows truly enjoyable once opened.
My two centsThe book in one sentence: Mystery wine = murder and intrigue.
This book appealed to me on so many fronts -- as a reader, a mystery lover, and as a foodie. I love love love that cover with the wineglass stain; the promise of a mystery got my Agatha Christie shackles up again; and wine, yes, wine. *picture silly grin on my face*
The story takes off when renowned wine critic Clyde Craven-Jones (yes, complete with hyphenated last name) tastes a wine which he considers as worthy of the penultimate 20 on the Craven-Jones-on-Wine scale. But who made this heavenly Cabernet? Ahhh, that is the mystery!
News spreads like wildfire that Clyde Craven-Jones is on a quest to find out the origins of the mystery wine. His wife, Claire embarks on an investigation with oh-so-blah writer wannabe Les Breeden who sort-of-fell-into-job. On the quest to the truth -- a road full of twists and turns and a few cliffhangers -- there is tons of intrigue, quite a bit of sex, a murder (of course), a scandal in a prominent wine-making family, a few sob stories, all spiced up with juicy gossip and blind items in yet another mystery wine blog called "Nose."
All around such a fun romp! And while the story seems rather convoluted, I honestly couldn't put this down!
What I wasn't prepared for was the level of detail about wine making and wine enjoyment this book contained; I became privy to the world of wine! From the vineyards and how they are managed (organic? biodynamic? modern? state-of-the-art?), the business side of winemaking, the marketing. Then on to the critics, the groupies, the aficionados, a rather small group of people all in all, who wax poetic about drinking wine, smelling wine, appreciating wine! This sub-culture is fascinating and makes me want to delve more into it.
I haven't been having much success with the cozy mystery variety of reading material, but since I chanced upon this book, maybe I'll go poke around in the foodie variety instead!
Check out the Nose blog and check out some really juicy excerpts!
Verdict: A wild romp around a wine mystery and the wine sub-culture. One of the best foodie reads I've read in a long time, and not a bad mystery either! Highly recommended fun read! I will be on the look out for more of Conaway's books.
I won an Advance Reader Copy on Goodreads First Reads.
Nose by James Conaway