Tuesday, February 17, 2015

G540 Book Review of Cognac Conspiracies by Jean Pierre Alaux and Noel Balen

Name of Book: Cognac Conspiracies

Author: Jean Pierre Alaux and Noel Balen


Publisher: Le French Book

Part of a Series: The Winemaker Detective

Type of book: France, translation, mystery, murder, cognac, status, wine, new vs old, solving the mystery, romance, power of women

Year it was published: 2015


The heirs to one of the oldest Cognac estates in France face a hostile takeover by foreign investors. Renowned wine expert Benjamin Cooker is called in to audit the books. In what he thought was a sleepy provincial town, he is stonewalled, crosses paths with his first love, and stands up to high-level state officials keen on controlling the buyout. Meanwhile, irresistible Virgile mingles with the local population until a drowning changes the stakes.


I have to say that the characters are the memorable part of the book, although I felt that one barely glimpses into their inner thoughts and souls. The authors have done an excellent job on drawing the characters' outside personalities, but not their inner thoughts and actions. My favorite ones included Pierre, a sensitive artist type, then Virgile who seems to be Casanova reincarnated with a taste for elderly women, Marie-France who is elegant and discreet and has no qualms about incest. (An interesting fact: I read The North China Lover by Marguerite Duras and there are also big hints of incest between the nameless girl and her younger brother, Paulo.) The other characters didn't seem to shine as much as I would have wanted.


I'm not sure what I should have learned from the book


The story is written in third person narrative from Virgile's, Benjamin's, Marie-France's and Sheila's points of view. I have to admit that I didn't understand the twists and turns of the mystery well and I also lacked understanding for how one of the characters is best described as despicable. Maybe something was lost in translation? The story also felt more of told than show and I think I wanted to get deeply into the characters' thoughts.

Author Information:
(From France Virtual Book Tours)


©David Nakache

The authors of the Winemaker Detective series, are Epicures.
Jean-Pierre Alaux is a magazine, radio and TV journalist
when he is not writing novels in southwestern France.
He is the grandson of a winemaker
and exhibits a real passion for wine and wine making.
For him, there is no greater common denominator than wine.
He gets a sparkle in his eye when he talks about the Winemaker Detective,
which he coauthors with Noël Balen.
Noël lives in Paris, where he shares his time between writing,
making records, and lecturing on music.
He plays bass, is a music critic and has authored a number of books
about musicians in addition to his novel and short-story writing.


Translator Sally Pane studied French at State University of New York Oswego and the Sorbonne before receiving her Masters Degree in French Literature from the University of Colorado where she wrote Camus and the Americas: A Thematic Analysis of Three Works Based on His Journaux de Voyage.  Her career includes more than twenty years of translating and teaching French and Italian at Berlitz and at Colorado University Boulder.  She has worked in scientific, legal and literary translation; her literary translations include Operatic Arias; Singers Edition, and Reality and the Untheorizable by Clément Rosset.  She also served as the interpreter for the government cabinet of Rwanda and translated for Dian Fossey’s Digit Fund. In addition to her passion for French, she has studied Italian at Colorado University, in Rome and in Siena.  She lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband.
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I'm not sure if cozy is the right description for this book, but the book does feel kind of light hearted and something to act as escapism into the fine world of nobility and wealth. I hadn't read the previous books of the series, so I'm only coming here as a newbie into this book. I feel that the story had glimmer and potential, but I feel as if one should be familiar with previous books in order to understand the characters in this one. I will say that a few characters are unforgettable and are memorable. I also would have wanted more character exploration instead of something that seemed to be on the surface, but again, maybe previous books add to characters. If you're looking for an escapist read, it can be a good stand-alone book, but if you're the type that loves to get inside the characters' heads, then its not a good stand-alone and previous books would be recommended.

This is for France Virtual Book Tours


Sunday, February 1
Review + Giveaway at The Discerning Reader
Monday, February 2
Review + Excerpt + Giveaway at Griperang’s Bookmarks
Sunday, February 8
Review + Excerpt + Giveaway at Hook of a Book
Friday, February 13
Review + Giveaway at I Am, Indeed
Sunday, February 15
Review + Giveaway at It’s a Mad Mad World
Monday, February 16
Review + Giveaway at Mommasez…
Tuesday, February 17
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Thursday, February 19
Review + Giveaway at Deal Sharing Aunt
Friday, February 20
Review + Giveaway at Words And Peace
3 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)


  1. Thanks for your review. I'm really looking forward to reading this series. I only wished the TV series was shown here in the USA.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750. (at). aol. (dot). com

  2. thanks for your review. You are right about the characters: as the books are rather small, you definitely get to know the characters better when you read more than one. And what's neat, you see how characters evolve from one to the next, as I will show in my own review.
    I have to say, as a translator myself, I didn't find issues with the text, and I thought the plot was easy to follow.
    Through the book, I also learned a lot about Cognac making, it made me want to try a few with different flavors mentioned here right away, lol!


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