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Murder in the Merlot

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Autumn has come to Cedar County. It’s harvest time. The trees and vines in the orchards and vineyards are heavy with ripening fruit. For the tourists flocking to the tasting rooms of the region’s vineyards, the land- scapes and seascapes provide an elaborate tapestry of rich colors and textures. However, there is one discordant note in this pastoral splendor, the crumpled Autumn has come to Cedar County. It’s harvest time. The trees and vines in the orchards and vineyards are heavy with ripening fruit. For the tourists flocking to the tasting rooms of the region’s vineyards, the land- scapes and seascapes provide an elaborate tapestry of rich colors and textures. However, there is one discordant note in this pastoral splendor, the crumpled body of an international wine maven has been discovered in a steeply terraced vine- yard of merlot grapes. As Sheriff Ray Elkins quickly discovers, the roots of this crime run from the legendary chateaus of Burgundy to the exclusive watering holes of Chinese billionaires.


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Autumn has come to Cedar County. It’s harvest time. The trees and vines in the orchards and vineyards are heavy with ripening fruit. For the tourists flocking to the tasting rooms of the region’s vineyards, the land- scapes and seascapes provide an elaborate tapestry of rich colors and textures. However, there is one discordant note in this pastoral splendor, the crumpled Autumn has come to Cedar County. It’s harvest time. The trees and vines in the orchards and vineyards are heavy with ripening fruit. For the tourists flocking to the tasting rooms of the region’s vineyards, the land- scapes and seascapes provide an elaborate tapestry of rich colors and textures. However, there is one discordant note in this pastoral splendor, the crumpled body of an international wine maven has been discovered in a steeply terraced vine- yard of merlot grapes. As Sheriff Ray Elkins quickly discovers, the roots of this crime run from the legendary chateaus of Burgundy to the exclusive watering holes of Chinese billionaires.

30 review for Murder in the Merlot

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ann-Marie

    8th book in the Ray Elkins series, which follows he adventures of a mystery solving sheriff in northern Michigan. I like reading these. They make me a little homesick. I was born in southwestern Michigan and lived there again after college. Aaron Stander does a much better job of holding my interest in "Murder in the Merlot" than in the previous book, "Death in a Summer Colony." This one starts with the body of a famous wine blogger found in a vineyard. She lives in New York, but she seems to ha 8th book in the Ray Elkins series, which follows he adventures of a mystery solving sheriff in northern Michigan. I like reading these. They make me a little homesick. I was born in southwestern Michigan and lived there again after college. Aaron Stander does a much better job of holding my interest in "Murder in the Merlot" than in the previous book, "Death in a Summer Colony." This one starts with the body of a famous wine blogger found in a vineyard. She lives in New York, but she seems to have an awful lot of connections with people in Ray's territory. What was she doing there, and why would somebody kill her for it?

  2. 4 out of 5

    Paula Miceli

    This is the latest of Aaron Stander’s Sheriff Ray Elkins murder mysteries. This may not be my favorite of the eight in the series (so far), but it was entertaining and an easy read. I felt the ending came very quickly. I had to check back to make sure I hadn’t missed a chapter or two. I enjoy the multitude of Michigan references in Stander’s books. Most Michiganders will recognize that the fictionalized Cedar County, Michigan is, in real life, Leelanau County.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Gerrie

    This may be the best Aaron Stander book yet. The plot keeps you guessing and as usual Lake Michigan is right there playing along. If you have ever traveled into the northern part of Michigan you might recognize many of the places described. The characters continue to develop as these books progress and I look forward to each new revelation. The kayaking and boating scenes are breathtaking and the descriptions will leave you chilled as if you too have been drenched in Lake Michigan. Great rea This may be the best Aaron Stander book yet. The plot keeps you guessing and as usual Lake Michigan is right there playing along. If you have ever traveled into the northern part of Michigan you might recognize many of the places described. The characters continue to develop as these books progress and I look forward to each new revelation. The kayaking and boating scenes are breathtaking and the descriptions will leave you chilled as if you too have been drenched in Lake Michigan. Great read.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Phyllis

    3.5 stars for this mystery that takes place in the NW part of lower Michigan. I'm not a mystery fan but liked this one because of the location as it's about fifty miles from me and one of my favorite places. Lovely descriptions of the area. Sheriff Ray Elkins investigates the murder of a woman who is found dead in a vineyard. It quickly leads to other murders. 3.5 stars for this mystery that takes place in the NW part of lower Michigan. I'm not a mystery fan but liked this one because of the location as it's about fifty miles from me and one of my favorite places. Lovely descriptions of the area. Sheriff Ray Elkins investigates the murder of a woman who is found dead in a vineyard. It quickly leads to other murders.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ginger

    So happy to have discovered this series. This installment doesn't disappoint. Good read. Likable characters. So happy to have discovered this series. This installment doesn't disappoint. Good read. Likable characters.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jenni

    I've been enjoying reading the Ray Elkin's series after discovering them by accident when I was searching for another series. I stopped the other series and kept going with these :) This 8th book in the series, like all the previous books, spends time developing the characters of Ray, his deputy Sue and his surgeon friend Hannah. I find that I am as interested in their lives in general and the personal challenges they are going through as I am in the actual murder plot in the books - and this to I've been enjoying reading the Ray Elkin's series after discovering them by accident when I was searching for another series. I stopped the other series and kept going with these :) This 8th book in the series, like all the previous books, spends time developing the characters of Ray, his deputy Sue and his surgeon friend Hannah. I find that I am as interested in their lives in general and the personal challenges they are going through as I am in the actual murder plot in the books - and this to me is the sign of an entertaining and good writer. The plot for this book is the counterfeit wine trade, something I have not seen in any murder mysteries I have read before, but a topic I am interested in as someone who is passionate about Wine & Food - so the book had a double bonus for me. I also love the way Aaron Stander has Ray sitting down each night and journalling what he has done each day and his thoughts on what has happened. For the reader it is a refresher of the facts from a different view point, especially for someone like me who reads very quickly, but also gets you more into the mind of Ray's character. I found that this book did not have the depth of story that some of the earlier books have, but that was more than made up for by the setting in the vineyards and the possible international connections in the murders, hence my 4 stars. Aaron Stander has developed his characters so well that if I was lucky enough to be visiting Lake Michigan I'd be looking out for them as I walked down the local streets.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Shoaib Khan

    One of the good mystery/thrillers I've read lately. Should mention that I've not read any of the previous books in the Ray Elkins Series, and there's no need this story is independent. I assume all the other stories in the series are also independent. In short the storyline goes on like this: Ray Elkins, who is a veteran, is an elected sheriff at the Ceder County. An ambitious wine expert has been killed in a privately owned vineyard. Ray and his deputy Sue starts investigating. After a lot of t One of the good mystery/thrillers I've read lately. Should mention that I've not read any of the previous books in the Ray Elkins Series, and there's no need this story is independent. I assume all the other stories in the series are also independent. In short the storyline goes on like this: Ray Elkins, who is a veteran, is an elected sheriff at the Ceder County. An ambitious wine expert has been killed in a privately owned vineyard. Ray and his deputy Sue starts investigating. After a lot of twists, turns, dead ends, revelations and all other interesting things to look for in a thriller... well, the story ends. (I don't like giving out spoilers.) The storyline and the characters are well developed, and I couldn't guess the "killer" until the story revealed. One comment I should mention is that the story is dialogue based. The writer usually doesn't explain the things directly; rather he makes his characters speak and explain the details - from their point of view - most of the times. His writing style is also very clean, and almost as unprejudiced as seen in good journalism. These turned out to be good for this novel. If you are looking to enjoy a good quality fast paced thriller, I'd recommend this book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Carlin

    I can't believe I haven't read any of Aaron Stander's books before this one, #8 in the Ray Elkins mystery series. I loved it! Elkins is the Sherrif of Cedar County, Michigan, on the shore of Lake Michigan. He is the type of protagonist I enjoy: erudite, thoughtful, logical, literary, often quoting novelists and poets to make a point. This mystery centered on the burgeoning wine industry in northern Michigan where the body of an international wine expert is found in one of the local vineyards. I I can't believe I haven't read any of Aaron Stander's books before this one, #8 in the Ray Elkins mystery series. I loved it! Elkins is the Sherrif of Cedar County, Michigan, on the shore of Lake Michigan. He is the type of protagonist I enjoy: erudite, thoughtful, logical, literary, often quoting novelists and poets to make a point. This mystery centered on the burgeoning wine industry in northern Michigan where the body of an international wine expert is found in one of the local vineyards. I got so involved in the story I finished it in the wee hours of the morning! I know very little about Michigan from personal experience but now have a better perspective on its appeal. I definitely will read more of this author's mysteries, noting I already have 2 earlier ones downloaded on my kindle. From my enjoyment of this book I can say it was easily read as a stand-alone. But I look forward to getting more of the Sheriff's back story.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Holly A. Woodruff

    Kept me interested I hadn't read any of the previous books in this series, but the story is self contained. You don't get a lot of backstory on Ray, Sue and Hanna, but it's not hard to figure out the relationships. Sometimes the action jumps ahead with a new chapter, which is why I didn't give the book five stars, but there is action and bodies throughout. While this has a title suggestive of a cozy mystery, and there is no sex or bad language, it doesn't read like a cozy. There is a subplot rega Kept me interested I hadn't read any of the previous books in this series, but the story is self contained. You don't get a lot of backstory on Ray, Sue and Hanna, but it's not hard to figure out the relationships. Sometimes the action jumps ahead with a new chapter, which is why I didn't give the book five stars, but there is action and bodies throughout. While this has a title suggestive of a cozy mystery, and there is no sex or bad language, it doesn't read like a cozy. There is a subplot regarding Sue's health that added nothing to the story, but thankfully the author didn't waste a lot of time on it. It's a fast read and other than the story skipping ahead at times with a new chapter and a couple of plot points that didn't feel resolved, the editing is decent. I'd like to read more books in this series.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Ezzell

    VERY intriguing read All about the wine trade. Throw in an unusual death, a murder actual, that turns into multiple murders. The Sheriff, Ray is a deep thinker, and this book is written from his perspective. He is surrounded by two women that seem to love him deeply and they have formed the kind of friendships that we all strive for. One helps him solve the murders, as she has to deal with her own life altering near crisis. Thanks to his other friend, they are able to all deal with everything suc VERY intriguing read All about the wine trade. Throw in an unusual death, a murder actual, that turns into multiple murders. The Sheriff, Ray is a deep thinker, and this book is written from his perspective. He is surrounded by two women that seem to love him deeply and they have formed the kind of friendships that we all strive for. One helps him solve the murders, as she has to deal with her own life altering near crisis. Thanks to his other friend, they are able to all deal with everything successfully, eventually. That doesn’t give anything away about the story, read to all the details. You’ll enjoy the time.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    I enjoyed this book mostly because I'm familar with the Leelanau area and its growing wine culture. However, this was one of those books that I rather wish had been written by someone else. I felt the main characters lacked depth, the plot wandered down some oddly irrelevant tangents in places, and the sense of place could have been conveyed better. I liked the storyline, but thought it would have been more compelling in defter hands. All in all, I'd say it's a decent read for people already fam I enjoyed this book mostly because I'm familar with the Leelanau area and its growing wine culture. However, this was one of those books that I rather wish had been written by someone else. I felt the main characters lacked depth, the plot wandered down some oddly irrelevant tangents in places, and the sense of place could have been conveyed better. I liked the storyline, but thought it would have been more compelling in defter hands. All in all, I'd say it's a decent read for people already familar with the setting, but I wanted a lot more flesh on the bones.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    My friends own a wine shop and sponsor a once-a-month book club featuring books that mention wine and other spirits. This entry was a serviceable read, not breaking any new ground but providing information on the winemaking industry in Michigan. This novel is 8th in a series but the reader is able to follow all the action without having read previous entries. I thought the protagonist was uninteresting and, other than location, nothing sets the mystery series apart from the hundreds of others tha My friends own a wine shop and sponsor a once-a-month book club featuring books that mention wine and other spirits. This entry was a serviceable read, not breaking any new ground but providing information on the winemaking industry in Michigan. This novel is 8th in a series but the reader is able to follow all the action without having read previous entries. I thought the protagonist was uninteresting and, other than location, nothing sets the mystery series apart from the hundreds of others that are available on Kindle.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Patsy R. Allen

    Quiet, thoughtful entertaining read I loved this author's style and approach to revealing insight about his characters. I've already lined up his other books in this series. His protagonist Ray is someone I would love to know in real life...that's how well the author made him appeal to me. The setting in UP Michigan was wonderful to "see" as I've always wanted to visit but will never have an opportunity. I'm grateful to have stumbled on such a great storyteller who demonstrates such command of th Quiet, thoughtful entertaining read I loved this author's style and approach to revealing insight about his characters. I've already lined up his other books in this series. His protagonist Ray is someone I would love to know in real life...that's how well the author made him appeal to me. The setting in UP Michigan was wonderful to "see" as I've always wanted to visit but will never have an opportunity. I'm grateful to have stumbled on such a great storyteller who demonstrates such command of the English language. He had me the minute he quoted Shakespeare.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

    Oh the wineries.....they bring a whole other set of folks. I'm so happy to find out I was hating on the right dude. I almost became unhinged when Simone got snatched! But I think my favorite things are the 'big lake paddles'. I've never paddled Lake Michigan, but definitely would like to some day. Also, I've been getting a kick out of "Cedar County". Thanks for not revealing too many local secrets Aaron. Oh the wineries.....they bring a whole other set of folks. I'm so happy to find out I was hating on the right dude. I almost became unhinged when Simone got snatched! But I think my favorite things are the 'big lake paddles'. I've never paddled Lake Michigan, but definitely would like to some day. Also, I've been getting a kick out of "Cedar County". Thanks for not revealing too many local secrets Aaron.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Cathy Pelham

    Enjoyable blend of wine, location and murder. This entry in Aaron Stander's Ray Elkin series is a solid mystery that was able to surprise me without forcing a solution. It brought back many memories of Northern Michigan, describing the scenery and lifestyle perfectly. I am looking forward to reading more. Enjoyable blend of wine, location and murder. This entry in Aaron Stander's Ray Elkin series is a solid mystery that was able to surprise me without forcing a solution. It brought back many memories of Northern Michigan, describing the scenery and lifestyle perfectly. I am looking forward to reading more.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jeannine

    I read the other reviews of this book and feel like I am on a different planet. The premise for the story is good and it could have been a good mystery if the plot was not so choppy and disjointed and the characters so underdeveloped. I was underwhelmed and only gave it 2 stars because I actually finished it (hoping it would redeem itself at the end).

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Robb

    I thought I'd read previous books in this series in the past, but as I read, I couldn't remember any of the history of the characters--so now I wonder. I was a bit confused as to the relationship between Ray and Hanna--but I think they aren't so sure about it either, so that might be why. There also seems to be a bit of a love triangle with Sue also being in love with Ray. I thought I'd read previous books in this series in the past, but as I read, I couldn't remember any of the history of the characters--so now I wonder. I was a bit confused as to the relationship between Ray and Hanna--but I think they aren't so sure about it either, so that might be why. There also seems to be a bit of a love triangle with Sue also being in love with Ray.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    Picked this up at a used bookstore while on a Michigan vacation since I thought it could be a fun addition to my State-by-State bookshelf. I was glad I did. It was a most enjoyable read especially while I was in or near so many of the locations mentioned. I decided early on that I’d have to track down some more of Sheriff Elkins’ stories. Well done, Mr. Stander.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Shirley Goetz

    Lots of corpses! Lots of Vino! Quite a good read. As a former Michigander who has been to every place mentioned in this book, I could envision all the locales. Interesting story, interesting characters but difficult to imagine where the characters will show up in future books. Lots of not so nice people involved in the wind business. Romance?? Ray? Sue? Hannah?

  20. 4 out of 5

    Geraldine R. Gaugler

    I really enjoyed this book! Of all the Ray Elkins Thriller Series, this is my favorite. The author pulled all the strings of the story line together at the end. Even though I know real life is not always like this, I still like books with a final outcome. It gives me a sense of completion.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Janice Foley

    The book was OK. The plot was really slow. Murders kept piling up and the clues were few. I probably should have started with the first in the series. I was unfamiliar with the characters and had problems keeping them straight. Honestly this is probably the only book in this series that I will read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Deborah

    Another mystery solved Aaron Stander has performed more magical prose to solve a mystery. This one was more intense and urgent with all of the factors involved. As always, we learn something new. In this one it was about wine and all of the elements in winemaking. Superbly written and it kept you guessing until almost the!a at page.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bob Ely

    This was an interesting book. A Wine speculator is found dead in a vineyard. It is discovered that she has been murdered. In tracking her movements, her half brother is then killed on his boat and then his wife dies in an explosion. Ray, along with his team, start putting clues together. There are parts of the book that drag, but over all, I enjoyed the book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    johnanimalantics.net, Margaret G Conlan

    Super Once again I was totally enthralled in the storyline. It was a page turning exercise which had me captivated with its greatness. However, the mild language and profanity spoilt it for me hence only 4 stars. The characters played their parts well with many variations to keep the reader guessing what would happen next. Thank you.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Terrev

    I enjoyed the book, I like the way things move as if it is really happening - not artificial. The ending was a bit abrupt but some of the clues were recognizable. Four stars because it a easy read with people, places and atmosphere I enjoy. Not great literature or writing, just nice and comfortable.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    Enjoyable Characters, Interesting Plots - Minor spoilers Quite a lot of complications. Wine in Michigan surprised me. I knew that lockdown drill would be an important factor. I felt like the villain should have been more devious for as successful as he was for a time.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Donna Engler

    Wow! The murders keep on acomin'. Exciting from the very first chapter. Interesting characters and a good script. Keeps you guessing until everything comes to a head. Sheriff Ray appears to be a very smart guy. Good dialog and lots of imagine. Enjoy! Wow! The murders keep on acomin'. Exciting from the very first chapter. Interesting characters and a good script. Keeps you guessing until everything comes to a head. Sheriff Ray appears to be a very smart guy. Good dialog and lots of imagine. Enjoy!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ken Cook

    Police procedural in Michigan wine country Well written novel tying the Michigan wine business into the industry at large. Local politics, industry and policing move the story along. Good buildup to a climax with a good resolution.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sonjie Outlaw

    Wine country in Michigan This was a really good book. Murder in the vineyard, making fake wine from France and still more murders to cover up the fake wine. Ray, Sue and Hanna make for good characters.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tami Anderson

    Mystery in Michigan Enjoyable quick read. I enjoyed the Traverse City setting of this book, an area I'm familiar with as a resident of the Upper Peninsula of MI. Great story with numerous twists and turns to engage the reader. Mystery in Michigan Enjoyable quick read. I enjoyed the Traverse City setting of this book, an area I'm familiar with as a resident of the Upper Peninsula of MI. Great story with numerous twists and turns to engage the reader.

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