Tuesday, November 14, 2017

"The Vineyard Victims"

Ellen Crosby is the author of the Virginia wine country mystery series, which began with The Merlot Murders. She has also written a mystery series featuring international photojournalist Sophie Medina, and Moscow Nights, a standalone. Previously she was a freelance reporter for The Washington Post, Moscow correspondent for ABC News Radio, and an economist at the U.S. Senate.

Crosby applied the Page 69 Test to The Vineyard Victims, the eighth Wine Country Mystery, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Can you tell us what happened yesterday?”

“Did you see Jamie Vaughn’s car crash into your wall?”

“Was he speeding? Were you speeding?”

“Were two cars involved, yours and his? Did Jamie swerve to avoid your car, which was seen in a ditch by the side of the road?”

“Did you call 911?”

“Were you able to talk to him?”

“Did you try to save him?”

“Where were you when he crashed into the wall?”

“Lucie, can you describe your emotions as you watched Jamie Vaughn’s car go up in flames? Take us through it, please.”

Finally Quinn held up his hand as though he were negotiating for a truce. “That’s enough. Please, stop. You’re all talking over each other,” he repeated in a loud voice until everyone quieted down. “Lucie has a statement and that’s all she’s prepared to say.”

I found Pippa O’Hara in the crowd, which wasn’t hard given her blazing red hair and electric blue windbreaker, and tried to keep my face expressionless. “All of us at Montgomery Estate Vineyard would like to extend our deepest condolences to Jamie Vaughn’s family after the tragic accident yesterday that took his life. I have nothing more to say, other than like so many people, I am grieving the loss of a friend and a good man. Everything else you might want to know should be directed to the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Department and the Middleburg Fire and Rescue Department. Thank you.”

I turned to go inside when a voice drawled, “Lucie, Pippa O’Hara, News Channel 3. Why are you covering up what really happened to Jamie Vaughn?”

I spun around. “I beg your pardon?”
Years ago I heard Michael Connelly say that in every scene of every book he writes someone must want something that propels the story forward, even if it’s only a glass of water. I took that advice to heart because my fondest hope is to hear from a tired, grumpy fan who writes to tell me he or she stayed up all night reading my book because they couldn’t put it down.

On page 69 of The Vineyard Victims, Lucie Montgomery is finally forced to confront the press as the only witness to a fiery car crash that killed former presidential candidate Jamie Vaughn at the entrance to her vineyard. Lucie heard Jamie’s last words—
Tell Rick to forgive me
—and she begins to wonder if the crash might have been deliberate. Jamie’s family insists it was a tragic accident on a rain-slicked country road since Jamie had no reason to want to take his life. His wife and best friend explain that the mysterious “Rick” was a campaign donor who had a falling out with Jamie—so Jamie merely wanted to make amends.

In this scene Lucie doesn’t feel compelled to admit anything to Pippa O’Hara, the Channel 3 reporter.  But sooner rather than later she must wrestle with her own conscience: find out who Rick really is and risk destroying the reputation of a beloved and generous member of the community ... or do nothing.
Visit Ellen Crosby's website.

--Marshal Zeringue