The Critic: Book summary and reviews of The Critic by Peter May

The Critic

The Second of the Enzo Files

by Peter May

The Critic by Peter May X
The Critic by Peter May
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  • Published in USA  Nov 2007
    300 pages
    Genre: Mysteries

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Book Summary

Gil Petty, the world's number one wine critic, went missing during a tasting tour of the little-known wine region of Gaillac. Three years ago, his body was discovered strung up on a cross in the vineyards of southwest France.

Dressed in the ceremonial crimson robes of the Brotherhood of the Order of the Divine Bottle, the semi-decayed body had been preserved in red wine before being planted like a scarecrow among the heavily-laden vines. Petty's murderer was never found.

Scots exile and former forensics expert, Enzo Macleod reopens this well-chilled cold case to discover that the genteel world of winemakers hides a business driven by greed, envy, and desperation. In the idyllic vineyards, Enzo finds no shortage of possible killers: local winemakers, The Brotherhood of the Divine Bottle - an ancient society dedicated to promoting Gaillac wine, and Petty's daughter, Michelle. Will this elusive killer strike again?

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Media Reviews

"Oenophiles and fans of CBS's Cold Case will relish May's slightly far-fetched second outing to feature France-based Scottish sleuth Enzo Macleod (after 2006's Extraordinary People)." - Publishers Weekly.

"Another oenophile's tip sheet with the bonus of a finely crafted and surprising mystery." - Kirkus Reviews.

This information about The Critic shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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The Critic by Peter May
Before I began this one, I went to my local library to find Extraordinary People, the first in the Enzo Macleod series by Peter May, and I'm glad I did -- otherwise some of the relationships between Enzo and his various "women" would have been confusing to me. And there are plenty of women!

There's also a good deal of oenology to keep up with, but as I enjoy an occasional glass myself, The Critic just added to my [admittedly small] store of knowledge about French wines and wine-making. This is a good mystery set in a part of France I don't know at all, although I teach French [and I am appalled at the spelling errors May's "editors" allowed him to get away with in his first book; for someone who actually lives in France, he has a limited grasp on the language, or so it seems] and have travelled there extensively. I'd love to see this part of the country and, having very much enjoyed this book [and I'm looking forward to more of the series], will put this area on my itinerary.

Not really suited for a book club, but mystery lovers should enjoy it.

Steve & Linda

For Love of The Critic
If you love wine or just wish you knew more about the art of wine making with a great mystery thrown in; this book is for you! The heady smell of grapes hanging heavy on their vines permeates this regional novel.

Join Enzo Macleod as he drinks and solves his way through this clever mystery. This is a smartly-written, fast-paced page turner. Don't miss it!


The Critic
It took me about 15 pages to get hooked into the story but from there, I never looked back. It was so very easy to embrace all the characters particularly the lead, Enzo MacLeod, who was enchanting in brusque kind of way. I liked that the author was able to weave in a story about Enzo’s sidekick, Nicole, without detracting from the main mystery. Peter May puts in enough twists and blind alleys to keep the reader fully engaged and writes with a great deal of wit and humor. If you’re a wine lover, you will enjoy this book on an even more intimate level. This was my first Peter May book. I took so much pleasure from it, I immediately secured the first in the series, “Extraordinary People” and look forward to all future endeavors.


The Critic
The Critic by Peter May is the second mystery featuring Enzo Mcleod, Scottish forensic investigator and professor. Entertaining and also informative, the story line is fast-paced and packed with action. The characters are a good assortment of diverse personalities. Along the way, the readers picks up a treasurey of knowledge about the production of wine and the world-wide rivalries which are part of the industry - rivalries, in the experience of Enzo, lead to murder more than once. Another feature which will please many readers is the puzzle-solving element and breaking of a code. Pour yourself a glass of wine and
enjoy a good read as you follow Enzo in a French vineyard.

Cloggie Downunder

page turner
The Critic is the second book in the Enzo Macleod Investigation series by Scottish journalist, screenwriter and author, Peter May. The prospect of raising funds for his new forensic department at the university where he teaches biology spurs former forensics expert Enzo Macleod to travel to Gaillac to investigate a second case from Roger Raffin’s best-selling book of notorious unsolved murders. But on his very first night there, Enzo almost dies twice and, the second instance, he is certain, was an attempt on his life.

Until his disappearance in 2003, Gil Petty was described as “the most influential wine critic in the world”. A year after he went missing, his body was found by pickers in La Croix Blanche vineyard, posed in the ceremonial garb of an exclusive wine fraternity. He had been pickled in red wine. It is soon apparent that he was unpopular with some winegrowers, and they weren’t the only ones with motive.

It’s quickly clear that Enzo’s investigation is not well received by all the locals. When he visits the young gendarme who investigated Petty’s disappearance and murder, he meets with resistance to the point of obstruction, but when another body is discovered in similar condition, the gendarme unbends enough to allow Enzo to assess the scene. After Enzo is invited by the juge d’instruction to consult on both investigations, the young man’s resentment as Enzo exposes his unwitting incompetence is evident.

The tiny gîte in which Enzo is staying is the former home of an eighteenth-century Petty ancestor, and also where Petty was living when he disappeared. It becomes increasingly cramped as his student and assistant, Nicole Lafeuille arrives with her gear, then Petty’s estranged daughter, Michelle, Enzo’s erstwhile lover, Charlotte Roux, and his daughter Sophie with her boyfriend Bertrand all crowd in.

After they manage to break through the security on Petty’s computer, Enzo decides they need to decode the cipher in which Petty wrote his tasting notes, reasoning this might point to motive as, while a high Petty rating would guarantee success for the vineyard, a low one would spell ruin. The way they go about this is terribly clumsy, but they do all get their fill of good wine.

Enzo’s other avenue of investigation, apart from the source of Petty’s death garb, is to trace the origin of the wine in which the victims were pickled using a wine fingerprint, which necessitates a plane trip to California in a kilt.

The mystery is intriguing enough to keep the pages turning: even if the murderer’s method is obvious by halfway, the motive and the identity are not. There are several red herrings to keep the reader guessing, and multiple attempts on Enzo’s life, at least one of which remains unresolved at the conclusion. That “I’ll just go to the murderer’s place to see if I can find the bodies, but I won’t bother to let anyone know where I’m going” trope is wearing a bit thin, though.

Enzo does seem to be juggling beautiful women in this instalment, shamelessly flirting even as he really has too many women around him, all giving each other black looks. May also demonstrates that the French bureaucracy has the same fondness for acronyms as other nations do. It will be interesting to see where #3, Blacklight Blue takes our transplanted Scot. At times blackly funny and also filled with winemaking facts, this is a page-turner.


A good mystery
Enzo McLeod goes to Gallic wine country to solve a cold case of a wine critic. He meets with resistance from the local gendarmes and the wine growers. The story is full of twists and plot turns. The explanations of wine making and wine tasting enrich the mystery.
I think this book is a good read for mystery lovers.

...12 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Peter May Author Biography

Photo: Domi Photographe

Peter May won the Scottish Young Journalist of the Year Award at the age of 21, and had his first novel published at 26. He then left journalism and became one of Scotland's most successful and prolific television dramatists. By the age of 30 he had created two major TV series, The Standard and Squadron, for the British television network, the BBC. He went on to gather more than 1000 TV credits in fifteen years, creating and writing major drama serials for both BBC and ITV in the UK: including the ground-breaking Gaelic serial Machair, which he also produced.

Returning now to novels, the six novels in his outstanding China Thrillers series have won critical acclaim. To research the series, Peter May makes annual trips to China. With an extraordinary network of contacts, he ...

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