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The Critic

An Enzo Macleod Mystery by Peter May

The Critic by Peter May

Review: On his quest to solve the greatest unsolved murders in France, Enzo Macleod travels to Gaillac to investigate the death of a wine critic in The Critic, the second mystery of this series by Peter May.

Gil Petty was a world-renown authority on wine and his influence on the industry was considerable. Four years ago he disappeared; a year later his body was found in a Gaillac vineyard preserved in red wine. Enzo, uninvited and unwelcome by the local authorities, manages to get official approval to look into the murder and quickly discovers a number of clues that were originally overlooked and which ultimately lead to the identity of the killer.

Note: Potential spoilers may be included in the following paragraphs.

On balance, The Critic is a generally enjoyable mystery. Wine itself is something of a mystery, and it pairs very well with a whodunit. Winemakers are passionate about their craft, and murder mysteries almost always involve passion of one kind or another. Early in the book, one vintner describes it this way: "There's poetry in the grape, you know. The essence of Man, of civilisation, of sophistication. We've done all manner of things. We have circumnavigated the globe, sent spaceships to Mars, but there's no higher achievement than the making of a fine wine, no greater pleasure than to drink it."

But there are a number of facets to The Critic that are somewhat problematic. Even though Enzo is convinced deciphering Petty's notes will not lead to his killer, an extraordinary amount of narrative is related to accomplishing this. While the coded wine reviews may be of some academic interest, they have, as Enzo predicted, little to do with the murder. It is unclear why so much of the book is devoted to this subject. Late in the book, Enzo's (unnecessary) trip to the California wine country completely disrupts the flow of the story. And in the end, the crime more or less solves itself without Enzo's direct involvement. This is a disappointment since Enzo is a master puzzle solver; the reader is deprived of the pleasure of watching Enzo put all the pieces together.

Despite the problems noted, The Critic is very readable. May carefully develops his story, naturally dispersing clues here and there that will later be important in both creating a suspenseful conclusion and understanding the motive behind the murder. The characters are richly drawn, and Enzo in particular is a wonderful protagonist. It's a shame, however, that he wasn't allowed to use all his skills in closing this particular case.

Acknowledgment: Poisoned Pen Press provided an ARC of The Critic for this review.

Review Copyright © 2007 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author

Mystery Book Review: Extraordinary People by Peter MayExtraordinary People
Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover), November 2006
ISBN-13: 9781590583357; ISBN-10: 1590583353

Mystery Book Review: Snakehead by Peter MaySnakehead
Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover), February 2009
ISBN-13: 9781590586068; ISBN-10: 1590586069

Location(s) referenced in The Critic: Gaillac, France, San Francisco

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The Critic by Peter May

The Critic by An Enzo Macleod Mystery

Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Format: Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-458-3
Publication Date:
List Price: $24.95

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