Boise author Kelly Jones is back with her second novel featuring the unlikely crime-solving duo of American journalist Dana Pierson and Italian priest Giovanni Borelli.
“Bloodline and Wine” is the sequel to Jones’ 2015 book, “Lost and Found in Prague,” which involved a murder, politics and stolen church antiquities in the Czech Republic.
This second installment takes place in the Tuscany region of central Italy. Readers who are wine aficionados will already know that within that region, Montalcino is the hill town where a prestigious wine called Brunello is produced using only sangiovese grapes.
Borelli has retired from the Vatican and has come to live in Montalcino with his sister and her family, who still oversee the vineyards that have been in the family for generations, and who produce a particularly coveted Brunello wine.
Since his unexpected alliance with Dana in Prague four years earlier, the priest and the reporter have kept up a correspondence the old-fashioned way, through the mail, and when she makes plans to return to Europe, she stops to visit him for a few days in Tuscany before going on to join some friends in Rome.
But as with the first book, her initial plans are thwarted. This time it’s because on the evening of her arrival, someone breaks into the Borelli wine cellar and sabotages millions of dollars’ worth of the family’s exclusive label – and a longtime, trusted employee dies in the incident.
The next day, when a promising apprentice who recently had been hired doesn’t show up as expected, Borelli briefly wonders if he might be a suspect – until a gruesome discovery throws the family into further turmoil.
But even in the midst of a distressingly expanding crime scene, the winery’s high-profile business must go on.
Dana is pressed into service to greet a contingent of wine buyers flying into the airport from overseas. This introduces some new personalities into the mix, including Winkie Dalton, a famous American actor and producer who has a particular interest in the neighboring vineyard.
Against the picturesque backdrop of medieval hill towns and verdant vineyards, the characters come up against deep-rooted family secrets, high-stakes business affairs and betrayals in both the past and the present.
To reveal various story facets over the course of the book, the author switches between three different perspectives – Dana’s, Borelli’s and occasionally even Winkie’s. The inclusion of the American celebrity’s experiences and point of view is a mite jarring – particularly since he is not involved with the Borelli property or family.
This reader was able to peg the perpetrator before the ultimate reveal, but there are enough characters and relationships and crossed wires to keep the story humming along nicely, and the Italian setting is marvelous.
Although a satisfying batch of both comeuppances and happy connections do result by the end of “Bloodline and Wine,” Jones promises that there will be at least one more installment in this series. It will be fun to see what exotic locale we’ll be visiting then.
The Bookmonger is Barbara Lloyd McMichael, who writes this weekly column focusing on the books, authors and publishers of the Pacific Northwest. Contact her at email@example.com