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edited by Sue Courtney
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Featured Publication
for period ending 14th November 1999

A Long Finish
by Michael Dibdin

Cover of 'The Long Finish'
First published 1998
Pantheon Books, New York
ISBN 0-375-40429-5

" 'Barolo is the Bach of wine,' his host continued. 'Strong, supremely structured, a little forbidding, but absolutely fundamental. Barbaresco is the Beethoven, taking those qualities and lifting them to heights of subjective passion and pain that have never been surpassed. And Brunello is its Brahms, the softer, fuller, romantic afterglow of so much strenuous excess'. " from "The Long Finish", by mystery writer Michael Dibdin.

A long finish is a hallmark of a great wine. And so the title of this book intrigued me, as did the cover photo which showed a knife, a bunch of grapes, a bottle and a glass of spilt wine. So I had to pick the book up off the shelf.

It's a murder mystery, set in the Langhe region of Piedmont. Aldo Vincenzo's wines, made from the Nebbiolo grape, are highly sought after, yet Vincenzo has been murdered and his son Manlio, the company winemaker, is the prime suspect. He is in jail awaiting his trial. And it is the eve of what promises to be one of the great vintages of the century.

The world-famous film and opera director, known to his friends as Guilio, is a collector of wine. He selects only the best. 'Conterno and Giacosa for Barolo, Gaja and Vincenzo for Barbaresco and, until recently, Biondi Santi for Brunello.' He has the best collection in the country.

Guilio enlists our hero, a detective named Dr Aurelio Zen, to free Manlio from prison as Manlio is the only person who can make the Vincenzo wine in the Vincenzo style. And he needs the new vintage wine to complete his collection.

Then there's another murder in the vineyards near tiny village of Palazzuole. Beppe Gallizio, the truffle poacher is the victim. And the knife that killed Vincenzo was found in Gallizio's kitchen. Manlio is released.

This book is full of mystery and intrigue laced with great wine, food and those sought-after white truffles which the poaching of sparked off the series of events in the first place.

While I found it difficult at first to get to grips with the Italian names of the characters in the story, they soon became familiar. I flicked back a few times to re-read previous chapters and it all made sense.

Dibdin, not wanting to make the mistakes of previous writers on a subject he was not an expert in, had Jancis Robinson read the manuscript and adopted her suggestions.

A good book. Something to curl up on the couch with on a lazy weekend, and enjoy with a good glass of wine - preferably a wine with a 'long finish'.


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