Wined and Died in New Orleans
reviewed by Pam Guynn
Ellen Byron’s second book in her Vintage Cookbook cozy mystery series, Wined and Died in New Orleans, picks up soon after book one. It features twenty-eight-year-old widow Ricki James-Diaz. Her husband died doing a stunt and her boss was a criminal (unbeknownst to her) so she decides to move from Los Angeles to New Orleans, the city of her birth.
Ricki has turned her avocation of collecting vintage cookbooks into a job by establishing a gift shop in the late home turned museum of Genevieve (Vee) Charbonnet, who ran one of the city’s finest restaurants before she died. Ricki’s gift shop features vintage cookbooks and kitchenware. When repairs on the property unearth crates of very old and valuable French wine buried by the home’s builder, Jean-Louis Charbonnet, Ricki is initially thrilled when her post about the discovery goes viral. However, when distant Charbonnet family members start arriving demanding a cut of the wine’s sale, the situation rapidly goes downhill.
Ricki is a likeable person that makes friends easily, but she has trust issues due to her backstory. That backstory in book one gives readers insight into Ricki’s thoughts, behaviors, and actions towards others. There are a large number of characters, but there is a character list at the front of the book for reference. Readers will enjoy guessing which characters are dangerous and which are merely quirky.
Diverse characterization deepened the conflict while great world-building details and the internal dialogues pulled this reader into the inner world of the characters. The author captures the characters, as well as the cultural lifestyles and traditions of New Orleans and brings them to life. It was great to see how the dynamic characters responded to events as they unfolded. There was only one action taken near the end of the book that seemed at odds with Ricki’s character.
The well-plotted and beautifully executed story gradually builds momentum until it reaches the astonishing conclusion. There were some twists and turns along the way and one of the threads left open in book one’s epilogue was unraveled. I enjoyed the humor that was interspersed within the novel, as well as admiring how multiple threads were brought together effortlessly. The descriptive narrative transported me to New Orleans. However, the very ending was a little too much “tell” versus “show” for me.
At the end of the book are some recipes from a variety of vintage cookbooks as well as some information about the cookbooks themselves. Themes in the novel include death, theft, family dynamics, friendship, trust, greed, and much more.
Overall, this was an engaging novel with humor, suspense, action, and the possibility of romance. If you enjoy sleuth mysteries, then I recommend that you check out this one. I am looking forward to finding out what happens next in New Orleans and I want to check out this author’s other series.
Berkley Publishing Group and Ellen Byron provided a complimentary digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own. Publication date is currently set for February 7, 2023.