by: Vicki Doudera
Publisher: MIDNIGHT INK
Published: April 8, 2012
Format: Paperback (312 pages)
Series: A Darby Farr Mystery
Origin: Publisher through NetGalley (egalley)
***Though the publisher provides the free ebook, I offer the opinion.***
In DEADLY OFFER, Selena Thompson finds herself cornered inside the old barn of the Carson Creek Estate and Winery. However, she’s still alive after the near deadly encounter but not for long.
The death of a sickly woman isn’t considered anything odd, but when Darby Farr arrives with Selena’s two grieving brothers, she sees things in a new light. Why hadn’t Selena told her brothers how ill Selena was or that she was selling the property? Although these circumstances were surprising enough, to find out the cause of Selena’s death wasn’t the heart attack everyone assumed was alarming, at first.
According Dr. Jenna Yang, Selena’s death was a tragic accident due to a mixture of her weakened state, wine, and a hot tub. This woman had fainted and drowned. Simple.
At first, she tried to dismiss her feeling that something wasn’t right here, but these three buyers already lined up—by Selena—gave her uneasiness, especially when one is insisting she was the chosen buyer. Without a signed contract and only a verbal agreement, this property cannot be sold—if one could believe this woman’s word. Before this buyer arrived on scene, a local realtor began soliciting the property rights for his client, only hours after the woman died. The third potential buyer threw the grieving siblings a jolt, a power yoga instructor. If none of this was enough to needle her senses, later, the winemaker claims Selena proposed to him. A proposal Dan turned down. His care for the deceased is evident as is his love for the land, but his feelings for Selena is friendship not romance. He did want the property and stated openly that he couldn’t afford the purchase price. However, when the winemaker’s daughter, Sophie, hid a bottle of wine, Darby’s questions multiplied.
The deceased drank from the same bottle before she died. Darby’s act was instinctive rather than investigative, but when she tasted the wine, a different ingredient nagged at her. How did the woman not sense this funny taste? Had Dan’s daughter hid the bottle or could she have found the bottle after the winemaker hid it?
Meanwhile, her suspicious mind prickled again once a bang woke her, the winemaker’s jeep sat in the driveway, and his lone shadow went running into the vines.
Chasing after him, Darby caught up to him. He claims someone cut the sprinkler lines and with nightly frost, they could lose the crop. Now, he calls this episode sabotage, bringing her mind to refocus on their earlier conversation. Dan had confided that Selena believed the “bad luck” she had met combined with unexpected happenings in the last few months made her believe someone was trying to ruin the winery.
Tonight, he’s saying if they cannot fix the sprinklers, they won’t have a vineyard to sell, and a “bad feeling” spurred his visit to Carson Creek tonight.
If Dan is as believable as he seems, who wants this winery out of business?
Vickie Doudera provides a cozy mystery in a beautiful California setting where figuring out the victim’s friends from foes isn’t easy at all.
The natural competition between neighboring wineries combine with the appearances of a close-knit community to cast and disperse shadows of suspicion on many and on none. With many point-of-view characters to watch and suspect, the reader finds means, motives, and opportunities everywhere, but the ending is shocking.
Although this novel stands alone, DEADLY OFFER is the third Darby Farr mystery. You’ll want to check out Darby Farr’s other mysteries in A HOUSE TO DIE FOR (MIDNIGHT INK April 2010) and A KILLER LISTING (MIDNIGHT INK April 2011).