I’d just opened up a few pages about BC’s wine country on my laptop, when Fred Winterton knocked on my half-open office door. He was the last person I wanted to see. I only had an hour between lectures, and I’d wanted to find out some more about the area that Bud and I would be visiting over the forthcoming Easter weekend.“Come in,” I said. I wondered if Fred would pick up on the fact that I was sighing heavily as I spoke. The brightness of his expression as his wooly-haired head popped around the door suggested he hadn’t.
“Ah. Hello Professor Morgan, I was wondering if I could borrow a copy of ‘Anatomy of Motive’? I’m guessing you’ve got one.” He grinned. My heart sank. Fred was about thirty, and a newly appointed Associate Professor here in the Faculty of Criminology at the University of Vancouver. Sadly, he and I had managed to get off on the wrong foot when I’d done a little observation and analysis of him during a faculty meeting, the first time we’d met. He seemed to be quite the sensitive type. He specializes in internet crime. A growth area, you might say.
“Please, it’s Cait,” I replied, as I pushed back from my desk, stood—making little wheezing noises, as you do when you’re forty seven—and stepped over to a stuffed bookshelf, shoving my reading cheats onto my nose—I even need them to read spine titles these days.
Fred, wearing his trade mark sandals and socks (oh dear!), shuffled into my little office and smiled sheepishly as he said, “Oh, okay. Cait. You do have one, right?”
“Yes, here it is.” I smiled as patiently as I could, and politely handed him the book.
“Off to wine country?” enquired Fred cheerily as he took the volume, and nodded toward the screen on my desk.
“Yes,” I replied, “this weekend. I thought I’d find out a bit more about the place before I visited.”
“It’s where I’m from. You know, back in the day. Where I grew up until I was about ten. Then we moved to Regina. The different weather was a shock—the snow seemed to last forever in Saskatchewan, not like in the Okanagan, where it disappears fast, and you’re left with a summer that lingers for months and months. I go up there whenever I can. Still got some folks living there.”
“Has it changed much since you were young?”
Fred glanced at the ceiling, then ran his fingers, absentmindedly, along the edges of the pages of the book in his hand, as he reminisced.
“When you’re little everything seems so big, so far away, and . . . spaced out. There were lots of vineyards there twenty years ago, of course, but nothing like it is today.”
“So what’s it like today?” Getting someone’s insights about their home can tell you as much about the person as the place they are describing, so I thought I’d get to know Fred a bit better. I could tell by the way he chewed at his lip that he was sorting data, and trying to put opinions and feelings into words.
“Different, but the same.” He nodded, pleased with his choice of description, tough I suspected it was what every adult would say about the place where they grew up, then visited years later after an extended absence. “It all feels a lot smaller, of course, but it’s changed in real ways too, not just my perception of it. You know they’ve been growing grapes there since the mid-1800’s? My Mom . . .” he paused and half-smiled, his lips narrowing to a thin line as he pressed them together, “. . . she used to work at one of the old vineyards in the early 1980’s, before she had me. There were only about 30 or so then, now there are almost 200. And, because it’s hotter there now than it used to be, they grow more varieties of grapes. To have heard Mom talk you’d think it was all north American vines and sweet table wines back in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, which I guess it might have been, but they ripped up most of the old vines and planted new, imported ones in the late 1980’s so they could grow quality stuff, and it all just went KABOOM after that.” His free hand illustrated, making an explosive motion.
“Yeah, you know, kinda nuts. When they set up the Vintners Quality Assurance, you know, the VQA . . .” I nodded, “. . . well, that meant people couldn’t just shove any old grape in a bottle and call it whatever they liked. Mom said it wasn’t until the growers took themselves seriously that the world started to. And she was right. She was always right, my Mom, about so many things. They have a lot of internationally acclaimed wines now, you know. The foodies flock to the place. Well foodies, and people who love watersports, and sailing, and just sitting around on the beach with a cooler. Around the lakes in the Okanagan Valley, there’s about 250 miles of vineyards, beachfront properties, large and small hotels, B&B’s, campsites, fantastic restaurants of all sorts—all using the local produce of course—and hundreds of orchards too. I love peach season. Peaches from the Okanagan—you can’t beat them, and the cherries, and all the apples.” Fred Winterton was looking positively wistful, and I could feel my tummy growl.
He looked at me as though the reality of my office was painful. “You’ll have a great weekend, Professor Mor . . . Cait.” He smiled. “Even if you don’t like wine it’s a great place to go . . . all that food, great places to hike, kayak. You know.” Did he think I looked like someone who enjoyed hiking or kayaking? Good grief, his powers of perception weren’t all that well-developed.
His eyes misted again. I needed to get on.
“Thanks Fred, that was helpful. Just between you and me, I love wine, and food. All types.” I hesitated, but decided to follow my instincts. “By the way, was your Mom’s death recent? I didn’t know. I’m so sorry.”
Fred looked shocked, horrified. “I didn’t say my Mom was . . . how do you know? I haven’t told anyone. What did I say? Did you do that ‘reading’ thing you do?” He looked like a cornered animal—alarmed, searching for a way out. I felt for him. Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything. Sometimes I’m not too good at editing my thoughts.
“Sorry, Fred, I can’t help myself. It was the way you hesitated when you spoke of her, what you said when you did, your micro-expressions, and the warmth in your voice when you said she was always right. It all told me you’re mourning her loss, and that loss is still raw and difficult for you. Don’t worry—I won’t mention it to anyone. I’ll keep it private.”
Fred looked somewhat mollified. “Thanks. Yes, please don’t tell anyone. I don’t want to . . . I can’t talk about her, or her . . . passing, yet. The funeral was over the Christmas break, back in Regina, so I didn’t have to tell anyone. One day I will.” Spotting a way to escape, he added, “Gotta get to this book—thanks, and . . . thanks. See ya!”
As the door closed behind Fred I looked back at the pages displayed on the screen of my laptop. Sun-soaked grapes clung to regimented, neatly trimmed vines, apples shone on knotty branches, blue skies lit velvet golf greens, and glasses of red and white wine glowed in front of perfect sunsets, all with the backdrop of the magnificent Lake Okanagan. I involuntarily licked my lips. I knew I’d been saving a bottle of Icewine for a special occasion, maybe tonight I’d open it and share it with Bud, who was coming over to my little house on Burnaby Mountain for dinner. We could share it as we finalized our plans for the weekend. The idea that, in order to make Icewine, the vintner has to take the ultimate gamble of leaving the grapes on the vine, unpicked, until the temperature drops below minus 8 degrees celcius, then harvest and transport them very quickly to be pressed, releasing the best, most concentrated, if small, yield, has always seemed bizarre, and yet romantic, to me. I’m not a huge fan of sweeter wines, but I knew I had a chunk of Roquefort leftover from the porcini mushroom and pasta dish I’d made at the weekend, and they’d pair well. As I allowed my eyes to drink in the wine on the screen, I looked forward to the weekend that lay ahead of me: an invite to an exclusive event any foodie would give at least one limb to attend; my beloved Bud beside me, for a whole three days; and just one little twelve-month-old murder to investigate . . . or had it really been a suicide, as Bud believed? Ah well, the weekend would tell . . .
Genre: Traditional/Cozy Mystery
Published by: Touchwood Editions
Release Date: (March 12, 2013)
Number of Pages: 233
2nd in Series
A heartfelt plea to look into the death of a world-famous vintner goes hand in hand with the opportunity to attend an exclusive gourmet event in British Columbia’s stunning wine country. How can overindulgent foodie and criminologist Cait Morgan resist?
Sure that the award-winning owner of a family-run vineyard was murdered, Cait shares her findings with Bud Anderson, a retired homicide cop. But he is convinced that the woman took her own life, whatever her grief-stricken sister might say. That is, until death strikes once again, in the neat rows of grapevines that clamber up the banks of magnificent Lake Okanagan.
Uncovering obsessions that might have fuelled murderous thoughts among the victim’s wacky neighbours is a start, but as Cait unravels the clues, she realizes that more lives are at stake. Can she think, and act, quickly enough to thwart the killer?
The Corpse with the Golden Nose is the second book in the Cait Morgan Mysteries, a classic whodunit series featuring the eccentric Professor Cait Morgan.
About Cathy Ace
Welsh Canadian mystery author Cathy Ace is the creator of the Cait Morgan Mysteries, which include The Corpse with the Silver Tongue and The Corpse with the Golden Nose. Born, raised, and educated in Wales, Cathy enjoyed a successful career in marketing and training across Europe, before immigrating to Vancouver, Canada, where she taught on MBA and undergraduate marketing programs at various universities. Her eclectic tastes in art, music, food, and drink have been developed during her decades of extensive travel, which she continues whenever possible. Now a full-time author, Cathy’s short stories have appeared in multiple anthologies, as well as on BBC Radio 4. She and her husband are keen gardeners, who enjoy being helped out around their acreage by their green-pawed Labradors.
Cathy Reads From Corpse With The Golden Nose.
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