Author: Carlene O'Neil
Series: Cypress Cove Mystery #1
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Description: In California wine country, the town of Cypress Cove may seem peaceful. But someone’s about to pop their cork…
After losing her job as a photojournalist, Penny Lively is trying to get her life back in focus. Inheriting the family winery from her late aunt may be the fresh start she needs. Thankfully she’s got her niece Hayley and her handsome winery manager Connor to help. But the person in need of more urgent assistance is Antonia Martinelli, the owner of the neighboring winery, who has her own barrel full of problems. Someone’s spoiling her wine, and with the upcoming Autumn Festival, she needs Penny’s nose for clues to sniff out the culprit.
But Penny’s search for answers sours after the body of a staff member is found in a grape crusher. Since Hayley was the last to see him alive, she’s the prime suspect in the case. Now Penny must hurry to find the real killer before Hayley withers on the vine.
One Foot in the Grape is a delightful start to Carlene O'Neil's Cypress Cove Mysteries. With this first installment, this series shows plenty of promise. This book caught my interest right from the start and had me turning pages until the very end. The story contains strong characters, especially our main character Penny, and Antonia Martinelli, a fellow winery owner and family member. I liked Penny and the fact that she was strong, independent and quick witted. The entire Martinelli family plans a part in the story and while we don't know a lot about the family I appreciated that the author did not fill us in with their entire back story but rather revealed what was important for this story. The secondary characters, outside of the Martinelli family, round out the cast nicely. I am looking forward to learning more about the characters in future stories. There may even be a bit of romance for Penny in future installments of the series.
I thought the mystery was well written and complex. It had plenty of twists and turns with a bit of a surprise at how it all came together in the end. Given the cast of characters, there were plenty of suspects and all of them had viable motives. I changed my mind plenty of times as to who I thought would be the killer. I was surprised at how I reacted to the death of the first victim. The author had already had me so engaged in the story that when the first victim was killed (using a method that was a first for me in a cozy mystery) I was genuinely sad that this person had been killed.
I think this story is well written, with well rounded and developed characters and a plot that will keep you turning pages to a very satisfying ending. All in all, I really enjoyed this book and will be looking for more to come from this author.