Series: Whiskey Business #1
Published by Alibi on March 21, 2017
Genres: British mystery, Cozy Mystery
Source: the publisher
Abigail Logan never expected to inherit a whisky distillery in the Scottish Highlands. But in the first novel of an engaging new series blending fine spirits with chilling mystery, Abi finds that there are secrets lurking in the misty glens that some will go to any lengths to protect . . . even murder.
When Abi inherits her uncle’s quaint and storied single malt distillery, she finds herself immersed in a competitive high-stakes business that elicits deep passions and prejudices. An award-winning photojournalist, Abi has no trouble capturing the perfect shot—but making the perfect shot is another matter. When she starts to receive disturbing, anonymous threats, it’s clear that someone wants her out of the picture. But Abi’s never been one to back down from a fight.
Arriving on the scene with her whisky-loving best friend, Patrick, and an oversized wheaten terrier named Liam, Abi seems to put everyone in the bucolic village on edge—especially her dour but disturbingly attractive head distiller. Acts of sabotage and increasingly personal threats against Abi make it clear that she is not welcome. When one of Abi’s new employees is found floating facedown in a vat of whisky, Abi is determined to use her skills as an investigative journalist to identify the cold-blooded killer and dispense a dram of justice before he strikes again. But distilling truth from lies is tricky, especially when everyone seems to have something to hide.
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.
Single Malt Murder impressed me with its confident narration, vivid sense of place, and ability to keep me guessing. I wouldn’t have known it was a debut novel if I hadn’t read the author’s note.
Protagonist Abi Logan narrates the book in first person, a device that works very well on two fronts: it limits the reader’s knowledge of the crimes to what Abi knows and suspects, and because Abi is as ignorant of the whiskey-making process and the world of whiskey connoisseurs as many readers will be, it avoids the need for awkward info dumps. Instead, the reader learns about whiskey right along with Abi. . . and there’s a lot to learn.
Abi is an engaging character; I liked her from the start. An award-winning photojournalist who specializes in trouble spots and disaster areas, Abi has an intuitive and quirky ability to size people up in three adjectives—and she’s usually right. It’s not, however, an ability that necessarily helps her identify the person(s) involved in sabotaging Abbey Glen distillery, let alone track down a murderer. Still, as a photojournalist, she has a lot of skill in investigation and in persuading people to talk to her, and she uses both. Her loyalty to and love for her Uncle Ben fuel her determination to get to the bottom of the mystery and ensure that his legacy endures. Along the way, she finds a sense of connection to the small Scottish village where her uncle made his home. If I had to use Abi’s penchant and describe her in three adjectives, I’d say loyal, tenacious, and independent —though there’s an element of wariness to that independence, a fear of losing something if she gets too close or dependent on anyone. Given her background (she was orphaned at 8), maybe that’s not surprising.
Melinda Mullet did a really good job of keeping me guessing throughout the novel. By the time I reached the denouement, I had already considered and discarded the primary villain(s), though I did figure out one or two other pieces of the mystery. If you’re the type who likes to figure it out yourself, my advice is to take absolutely no one at face value, and pay attention to small clues.
I’m really interested to see where the series goes from here. Abi’s involvement in this particular mystery was inevitable; having inherited the distillery and as the recipient of threats against herself, she would naturally want the saboteur(s) caught. Justifying her involvement in another case may be trickier, but based on this first book, both the character and the series have a lot of potential. There’s even the possibility of a romance (one which I’d like to see pursued.) And I’ll admit, I have a soft spot for books set in Scotland, a country I fell in love with at the tender age of 10. So I’ll be eagerly awaiting the second installment! Death Distilled comes out in September of this year.
Note: Single Malt Murder is published by Alibi, a digital-only imprint of Random House. There is no print version available as of this writing, but they may release one at a later date. For those of you who read exclusively in print, I’m sorry; you’ll be missing out on an entertaining mystery.