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Sunday, July 9, 2023

Book Review: Eastern Promise by Peter Stafford-Bow

"I was tempted to suggest that anyone who reduced a living wine - its relationship with its terroir, the stage of its development in its decades-long life, the conditions prevailing at the moment of consumption, not to mention the company in which it was consumed - to a single numerical score, was a tedious, innumerate fool."
Eastern Promise is the fourth book in the Felix Hart series by Peter Stafford-Bow, and let me start off by saying that I have thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of these books. Corkscrew started things off back in 2017, recording Felix's rise into the wine trade, becoming a Minstrel of Wine, and going on a series of ridiculously hilarious adventures. Brut Force expands on his Minstrel duties while continuing to have Felix running around to save his own life. Firing Blancs was the first to be based on one location; South Africa. While the first two books were fun, hilarious, and definitely must-reads, Firing Blancs is where you could see Peter really coming into his own as story teller.

In the fourth installment, Eastern Promise, Peter continues that trend. Not only is this just a well-written story, it is definitely the wittiest of all four of the books and is very hard to put down. I finished it in just a few nights, staying up much later than I probably should have, and I cannot tell you how many times I literally laughed out loud. The character of Felix Hart is a treasure, and the world that Peter has build around him is quite brilliant.

You'll never think of elephant seals the same again. Trust me.

So what has Felix gotten himself into this time? Well, of course Sandra from Paris-Blois has coaxed him into doing something he doesn't want to do. This time it's for 1 million US dollars to raid a counterfeit wine scheme in Hong Kong! Although the year is not given, it appears that this all occurs during the later stages of the COVID lockdown, as many travel bans and safety measures (such as masks) have been pulled except for in Asia, where these things are as strict as ever.

As straight-forward as steal-a-fake-bottle-and-run sounds, things aren't really as they seem. And it's made even more difficult when the new idiot CEO of Gatesave fires Felix from his wine buyer job, and he becomes the bathroom accessories buyer instead! However, it turns out that this big screw up becomes a savior move for Felix. And it's a good thing that Felix was enlisted for this mission, because it's going to take a shifty thinker and a lot of screwing up to bring down these bad guys!

This is such a great book, and I highly recommend that every wine lover with a sense of humor reads the whole series. You will not be disappointed.

Oh, one last thing... In my Firing Blancs review I mentioned that Peter is really good at writing American tourists. Well, in this book he proves he's really good at writing modern business jargon. Those CEO and consultant meetings were tooooorttttttuuuuuure.
"On Sunday, if things didn't quite go to plan, my bloated corpse would be fished from a paddy field irrigation ditch somewhere up the Pearl River Delta, and by Monday, all going well, I'd be back in Britain, awaiting my own postmortem. Assuming, that is, there was enough of my cadaver left to examine once the flesh-eating wildlife of Guangdong had finished with it."

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