Sunday, April 10, 2022

"Bitter Roots"

Ellen Crosby is a former reporter for The Washington Post, foreign correspondent for ABC News Radio and economist at the U.S. Senate. She has spent many years overseas in Europe, but now lives in Virginia with her husband. She is the author of the Wine Country mysteries and the Sophie Medina mysteries.

Crosby applied the Page 69 Test to Bitter Roots, the latest title in the Wine Country mystery series, and reported the following:
From page 69:
Quinn and I managed to park the Jeep in one of the last remaining spots on the large field behind the Red Fox Inn, which was where everyone parked for all of our big events until it filled up and you were forced to retreat to other fields outside of town and take a shuttle bus. We followed a happy, chattering crowd of families, couples, and friends heading toward South Madison Street, which had been blocked off from traffic and was now lined with small white tents where local artists displayed paintings, photos, jewelry, and sculpture for sale. The weather was glorious, one of God’s best days when you feel lucky to be alive, and for the millionth time I prayed for weather exactly like this next Saturday.
On page 69 of Bitter Roots, Lucie Montgomery and her fiancé winemaker Quinn Santori are taking a break from vineyard business to attend an arts festival in the nearby village of Middleburg, Virginia after a morning of heartache and bad news. A huge swath of grapevines is dead and must be ripped out and replanted, a loss of nearly $200,000 and three years of hard work. Lucie is angry at Jackson Landau, the nursery owner who provided the vines; she and a number of other vineyard owners are certain Landau was aware they might be diseased when he sold them. On page 70, she and Quinn run into Landau whose wife is one of the festival organizers and there is an ugly altercation. Landau refuses to claim responsibility for the vines after three years in Lucie and Quinn’s care; he also blames climate change for the withered vines.

Lucie suspects Quinn is not entirely on board with her and believes her fiancé has taken the side of Eve Kerr, a stunning blonde—and a Californian like Quinn—who also works with Jackson Landau. Eve seems to have persuaded Quinn that Landau’s, a family business with relationships that span generations, would never deliberately betray their clients. What troubles Lucie—and worries Quinn—is that Eve, who arranged to secretly meet Quinn the previous evening, has now disappeared. With their wedding only a week away, Lucie tries to stifle jealous feelings. But when Eve turns up dead and Quinn becomes a suspect, she wonders what her fiancé is hiding from her—and why.

I find the Page 69 Test to be an intriguing experiment—thank you, Marshall McLuhan!—but I am also a firm believer in hooking a reader from the first sentence (or possibly the first paragraph), which has to be a riveting attention-grabber. Here’s the opening of Bitter Roots:

"Julia Child once said that every woman should have a blow­torch in the kitchen. To that I would add: and a chain saw in the garden. Or the vineyard, should you own one. Blowtorches and chain saws say you’re a woman who means business. They say don’t mess with me."
Visit Ellen Crosby's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Vineyard Victims.

--Marshal Zeringue