Having had the distinct pleasure of reviewing the previous two installments of the adventures of oenologist Felix Hart, Head of Wine at a prominent UK supermarket chain, I was tickled to find there was about to be a third. For those readers unfamiliar with the prior reviews, Felix is, in short, the Austin Powers of the wine world (perhaps with somewhat less mystery). He loves wine, travel, and beautiful women (not necessarily in this order) and boasts the ability to talk himself out of any pickle, as well as a nearly unshakable self-confidence.
This confidence is stretched rather thin when Felix finds himself faced with situations completely beyond his control after being sent to South Africa to reign in an errant local supplier whose labor practices are threatening Gatesave’s reputation. As you can guess, the road to redemption is a rather meandering path, and Mr Stafford-Bow manages to toss in a little twist near the end for good measure. Meet crackpot bosses, cantankerous dinosaurs, different shades of administrative types, revolutionaries, outrageous food, earthy wines, and enjoy the whirlwind ride. I certainly did.
For an extra chuckle, read the reviews on the back cover. Just do it.
Readers sensitive to social currents may wonder if depicting Black South African entrepreneurs running Marxist vineyards and entertainment establishments that cater primarily to white tourists with food and sex somehow points to a sinister purpose. However, in the world Felix Hart occupies, things are never cut and dry. Characters are caricatures, not real people, and nothing is ever just good or bad. So if you decide to read this book, park your suspicions at the door and enter with an open mind. You will see that in the end, everything works out quite satisfactorily.
Apparently, the Felix Hart series has become popular enough to be featured in book clubs, and therefore you will find appropriate wine recommendations in the last chapter, should you be lucky enough to have access to a well-stocked bottle shop or distribution hub. Although it sounds like something entirely invented for the purpose of making a point in this book, the range of Smiley wines, for example, is quite real. If you are outside the UK, do a quick search on those that interest you – you might get lucky!
“Firing Blancs” is published by Acorn. I received an ARC courtesy of the author. Needless to say, all opinions are my own, except where stated otherwise.