In Death in a Wine Dark Sea author Lisa King takes a big chance with her wine critic/sleuth. To quote the old Victorians, Jean Applequist is “no better than she ought to be,” because the first thing she asks herself upon meeting a man is whether he’d be a worthy bed partner. In Jean’s case, the answer is usually yes. If she were less sexually rambunctious, Death in a Wine Dark Sea could be categorized as a cozy because of its warm, friendly tone, but as it is, her amorous encounters keep getting in the way (in beds, on sofas, in cars, in parks, etc.). Yet with all her hormone-driven activities, this amateur sleuth manages to drive one of the funniest, most humane mysteries I’ve come across. Jean is all heart.
When a close friend’s new husband is murdered during the wedding reception aboard a yacht in the San Francisco Bay, she takes a break from her job at Wine Digest and rides to the rescue. She soon discovers that Martin Wingo, the groom, was a blackmailer who’d amassed enormous wealth by collecting the dark secrets of San Francisco’s most powerful citizens. Stashed in Martin’s dirty laundry hamper are several millionaires, a rising politician of the religious right, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, a famous sculptor, and a too-slick nightclub owner. To find out which of these blackmail victims killed Martin, Jean joins forces with his former assistant, the geeky, braces-wearing Zeppo. She discovers Zeppo has many hidden charms—among them, a libido to match her own. The mystery of who-killed-Martin is first-rate, and the descriptions of fistfights, gunfire, and stabbings are great fun, but in the end, it’s Jean herself who keeps you turning the pages. That sexy broad is irresistible.