Hi, I’m Penny Lively, owner of Joyeux Winery. Joyeux is a smaller winery in comparison to several of our neighbors, but enjoys a great reputation. As it happens, I’ve also managed to gain a reputation for my knack for finding bodies. I don’t know if knack is the right word…Connor would call it a gift, but the statement would be said under his breath and likely dripping with sarcasm. Connor’s my winery manager. My manager and nothing more. Yup, nothing more. He’s the best manager on the central California coast and I’m lucky to have him in that capacity, which is why I’ve stifled any urges I might have for him in any other capacity…
Where was I? Right. So after a long career as an investigative photojournalist, I came home to the winery I’d inherited. I’d been worried small town life would be too slow. Instead, I’ve been back less than a year and so far I’ve managed to find more bodies than I did in an entire career investigating situations where one might reasonably expect to find bodies. The local police can’t decide what to do with me, but it’s not like I’m asking for this. Although, I have to admit, once I’m involved I’m not about to walk away. Either the police manage to get it wrong, or someone I care about is a suspect and asks for my help. The first time it happened, my neighbor, Antonia Martinelli, thought someone was sabotaging her winery. She didn’t want to go to the police because she thought one of her children might be involved. Simple, right? Nobody mentioned murder. They never really do.
Between running the winery and running just ahead of whatever mess I’m no doubt in, I stay pretty busy. Connor does most of the heavy lifting when it comes to the winery, so I have free time on my hands. I spend most of it with my camera, a holdover from my last profession. My focus is on the landscape now, and this is a part of the country where it’s easy to find inspiration. The winery is beautiful, vineyards stretched across rolling hills in tones of bronze and umber, and just a short drive from Monterey Bay, Pebble Beach and the fabulous town of Cypress Cove.
That’s another thing; murder just shouldn’t happen somewhere so beautiful. The mean streets of Los Angeles? Sure. The underbelly of Chicago? Who’s surprised? Nobody. Here, when you find a body set against such beauty, it seems so much more shocking, vicious, and wrong. There’s a Latin saying, “It is well to remember that there are five reasons for drinking: the arrival of a friend; one’s present or future thirst; the excellence of the wine; or any other reason.” After what I’ve just been through I would include finding a body in your neighbor’s crusher. Just saying.