Blood, Wine & Chocolate is a crime thriller set in London’s East End and Waiheke Island. It is often violent (but the violence is somewhat moderated with humerous twists) and is exceptionally descriptive of the wine and chocolate production that becomes a theme in the second half of the book.
Blood, Wine & Chocolate opens with the story of three boys growing up in London, all linked by their fathers’ involvement in a criminal enterprise. Each boy gets their own chapter, and we learn why Vinnie, Marcus and Tom get set on their respective life paths. At times, I found it hard to keep track of each boy as their stories interweave, but it all comes together to create a cohesive narrative. When the boys become adults, their interests collide and the setting changes from London to Waiheke Island.
The story mostly centres on Vinnie Whitney-Ross, who grows up to become a well-regarded wine merchant. He witnesses a brutal murder:
He stared down at the corpse and shook his head. “Killed by a bottle of Petrus…I could have bought half a house with the price of that bottle.”
His childhood friend Marcus is the murderer, and the story details his motivations for testifying against Marcus, and the impact on Vinnie’s family as they are required to enter a witness protection programme. The police involved with the prosecution are well-developed characters, and the motivations for a police officer to betray Vinnie’s family well-explained.
I really enjoyed this book. It combined the usual elements of good crime stories – thorough research with great detail coming through the story, characters that are believable and are consistent and vivid descriptions of crime scenes that I could picture easily. Sometimes when I read New Zealand fiction, I find the setting of New Zealand too distracting. My focus is drawn from the story to the setting. When Blood, Wine and Chocolate moves the setting to New Zealand it was no distraction from the story, which is pretty fast moving at that point. For this reason, I really appreciated this book.
I read this book in two quick gulps. The book would be perfection if it came with some of the lovingly described chocolates (say the tequila ganache in lime infused white chocolate with sea salt) and wines that the main characters create!
Reviewed by Emma Wong-Ming
Blood, Wine and Chocolate
by Julie Thomas
Published by HarperCollins