Book Review: Red-Handed in Romanée-Conti by Jean-Pierre Alaux, Noël Balen, Sally Pane

Red-Handed in Romanée-Conti by Jean-Pierre Alaux, Noël Balen, Sally Pane
The Winemaker Detective heads to Burgundy for the grape harvest when a hail storm strikes, and a body turns up. What dark family secrets are at play?

Received from Netgalley in exchange for a review.

This is the first time that we meet Benjamin’s (Benji) father Paul, as both Benjamin and Elizabeth are in London on one of the rare visits over. Benjamin’s brother and sister are, once again, nowhere to be seen, and it is therefore just the two of them who get to hear the news – he’s getting married again, this time to his nurse!


The following morning sees Benjamin get an emergency call to return to France and the Lemoine  estate in particular – the weather is predicted to be horrendous, with torrential rain and hailstorms, all at the most critical time of the harvest for a region brimming with Grand and Premier cru estates.

Elizabeth stays behind with her father in law and we get to see more of Elizabeth in this book, as it turns out Paul has been taken for a ride and has dumped by his fiancee. Over the course of the book, we have Elizabeth dealing with an old man with failing health, who realises he has been foolish and is in fact lonely and has lost many of his friends – a suddenly decided on car trip to France is soon knocked on the head and replaced with connecting him to the internet – a task he easily takes to (but which Benjamin is not impressed with).

Meanwhile, back in France, the area is trying to pull in the harvest before the predicted storms, and we get to see the difference between the traditional and the modern ways of sorting grapes….the traditional may be slower, but the modern way depends on whether it’s actually up and running in time to deal with unexpected events!

There is tension across the estates, as not all grapes have been brought in before the hail storms begin. Things are made worse when the naked body of one of the temp  woorkers  (Clotilde) is found up on the grounds of the local Abbey, and someone has tried to frame Benjamin by leaving her underwear in his car. It takes some less than discreet coversations with the local police for them to drop investigation Benjamin, but tensions continue, specifically on the Lemoine estate, where Marcel the father, Rafael the son, and one of the lead estate workers  Philippine as there seems to be some undercurrent as to who knew Clotilde and what if anything they had to do with her death.

It soon gets sorted out, with the denoument had at the dinner held for the end of the harvest and Benjamine’s relationship with the Limone estate is almost back on track.

Whilst I did enjoy the book, and there was a decent amount of information about the wine of the region and the specific estates, it was presented in a very dry manner in a short, dense section of the book and it did seem like I was reading a text book. The rest of the story was done with a light touch, especially when it comes to Benjamin’s family and I’m wondering if the two authors could balance up their writing a little.



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