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Death of a Wine Merchant is the 8th book in the Lord Powerscourt crime fiction series, it was written by David Dickinson (no not that one but an educated Oxford lecturer). The book is about the murder of a wine merchant at his daughter's marriage, just after the marriage a shot rings out and the bride's father Randolph Colville is found dead of a gunshot with his brother Cosmo sat in a chair holding a smoking gun. Cosmo is being defended by Charles Pugh who asked his friend Lord Powerscourt to investigate the murder; the murder is set in the early years of the twentieth century.
From the beginning I was concerned that this novel would pan out to be a terrible Lord Wimsey style murder mystery, in which a murder is solved by the brilliance of an upper class Lord. Those kind of novels of which there are a few around always annoy me, not so much the use of a rich and slightly pompous character but the use of the detective seeming to understand the clues and the order of importance in a moment. I've found this style of murder mystery writing as a bit lazy, one of the best parts of any murder mystery is for the reader to try and solve the murder before the detective in the tale. As with most murder mysteries it is in truth not too hard to work out who might be responsible, but the easy acceptance of clues and the ignoring of others has been used by some writers as a tool to make their detective almost super-human. So the book begins with the slightly ridiculous tale of a rich and powerful wine merchant shot at his daughter's wedding by his brother. The ridiculous part is that the investigation is almost immediately opened to the probing of a Lord of the realm, the police seem to accept this and the Lord in question seems to have no issues being used as a private investigator.
The book however does settle down and falls along traditional lines of enquiry, we follow Lord Powerscourt around as he finds out more and more about the murdered man and his family. The investigation drips along at a reasonable pace for 200 pages or so then gets a bit bogged down in a tedious adventure/thriller section for around 80 pages where the Lord is personally involved in some skulduggery. This section is rather pointless and the inclusion of a couple of characters adds nothing to the story and feels like an editor suggesting the author add a couple of Eastland gangsters to pep up the story. The book then ends with a rather contrived point in the court case against Cosmo and the revealing of the murderer.
Overall this wasn't a terrible book, the murder is a bit silly and very unlikely and Lord Powerscourt has little to appeal to the majority of readers but it ends reasonably well and has a nice little twist at the end. So not the best but not the worst, personally I'd read another one in the series if I spotted it in the library or in a car-boot sale for 20p but buying the next for £7-£8 no don't think so.