DEADLY OFFER: A DARBY FARR MYSTERY
By Vicki Doudera
Midnight Ink, 2012
301 pages, $14.95
ISBN 978-0-7387-1980-1
 
Evelyn Waugh once said, “It is difficult to enjoy a good wine in a bad glass,” especially so when the wine has been poisoned and the wine drinker is dead.

DEADLY OFFER is Camden author Vicki Doudera’s third mystery novel, after A HOUSE TO DIE FOR (2010) and KILLER LISTING (2011).  And she is getting better with her mysteries — this one is the best so far.  Doudera’s amateur sleuth in the series is Darby Farr, a pretty Japanese-American woman who is also a hot-shot real estate agent and part-time detective.

Many Maine mystery writers have niche characters involved in other work — catering, home repair, blueberry farming and antiques — so why not real estate?  Fortunately, Doudera makes the real estate angle work nicely, creating fun mysteries without the gore or angst.

Darby’s office assistant, Enrique, has a sister who owns a small California winery in Napa Valley. When the sister, Selena, is found dead in her hot tub right before the multi-million dollar sale of her winery, Darby agrees to help the family, but doesn’t realize just how deadly the wine business can be.

The death is first ruled accidental, but it’s soon apparent that Selena was murdered. When Darby takes over the real estate transaction, she learns that a number of people would gladly kill to get their hands on that property. Aided by a clever teenage girl and a savvy police detective, Darby uncovers multiple suspects and motives, but the clues and evidence just don’t add up.

Add sabotage, arson, more suspicious deaths, cryptic clues, misdirection, false trails and a diabolical, cold-blooded scheme, and Doudera has another mystery hit. She also does a great job describing the California wine industry from grapevine to bottle. But watch out for the funny-tasting Pinot Noir.

 

THE MAINE LOBSTER BOOK
By Virginia Wright
Down East Books, 2012
144 pages, $14.95
ISBN 978-1-60893-041-8
 
Feeling low today? No worries, eat a lobster! It seems common knowledge that folks are never unhappy when they eat a lobster, so go ahead and indulge.

Maine’s favorite crustacean gets good coverage in Virginia Wright’s latest book, THE MAINE LOBSTER BOOK, a slim, short offering of lobster lore, factoids. recipes, and fascinating tidbits.  Wright lives in Camden and has written about Maine blueberries and Red’s Eats, the famous lobster shack in Wiscasset.

Like her other books, this is a bit whimsical, funny and loaded with anecdotes, personalities, festivals and recipes. She describes the business of lobster fishing, especially the theories about why lobster landings have quadrupled in the past 20 years when other fisheries are declining (103 million pounds in 2011, totaling $300 million), and how new technology and processing procedures produce more meat from each lobster.

She also vividly tells of the lobster lifecycle, from egg to dinner plate, including a hilarious romantic rendition of lobster courtship and vigorous sex life.  Wright adds descriptions of lobster physiology, like how lobsters can regenerate missing legs, claws, eyes and even antennae (which detects smell underwater).

Learn, too, about the creation of the Maine lobster license plate, how somebody figured out how to make biodegradable lobster golf balls (no kidding), somebody else invented lobster dog biscuits, and still another entrepreneur makes lobster ice cream.

Best of all, Wright reveals that lobster is actually a very healthy seafood to eat. It’s all that melted butter, onion rings and French fries that add the fat and calories.

For more interesting lobster-related reading, see Trevor Corson’s THE SECRET LIFE OF LOBSTERS (Harper, 2005) and the new cookbook by Mike Urban, LOBSTER SHACKS:  A ROAD-TRIP GUIDE TO NEW ENGLAND’S BEST LOBSTER JOINTS (Countryman Press, 2012).

— Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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