BOOK REVIEW: Brut Force by Peter Stafford-Bow

Hot on the heels of Corkscrew, our first encounter with the ineffable Felix Hart, Peter Stafford-Bow has returned with Brut Force.

His second book about the misadventures and narrow escapes of the wine buyer, I was pleased to receive my copy of Brut Force as once again it chimed in with my own adventures in wine. Last time I was being driven through the heart of European wine country preparing for my WSET Level 3 course whilst reading the novel. This time, I was recovering from the shock – and the joy – of discovering I was pregnant whilst still in the earliest possible stages of my WSET Level 3 studies. Once that course was finished, whilst still in my first trimester, I certainly welcomed the light relief of Stafford-Bow’s easy-to-read tone and captivating narrative weaving.

Brut Force by Peter Stafford-Bow

How is it?

And so it was over Christmas that I rejoined Felix Hart and the next stage of his journey. Some elements of the Corkscrew remain central to the unfolding story, and while they are neatly and concisely introduced I think you would derive the most pleasure from reading the books in order, to have a true grasp on the plot – and the character of Hart himself.

I felt as though returning back to a group of wayward but well-meaning old friends, dipping back into Felix’s life at Little Chalfont. However, almost immediately he lands himself in trouble. I think if he could only keep his cork in his bottle, so to speak, then old Felix would have a much simpler life. This time, our rollercoaster journey takes us through conspiratorial over-stocking of Champagne on the eve of the Millenium, a further insight into the mysterious ways of the Minstrels of Wine organisation, and a complex competition staged to judge the pre-eminence of Burgundy against the rest of the world’s efforts with Pinot Noir.

Improving with age

Although the plot was not quite as twisting as the original Corkscrew, I was still gripped by the unfolding tale. I felt as though Stafford-Bow’s writing had matured somewhat and the twists and complexities were delivered with a little more mastery than previously. Those outlandish connections of the last novel were replaced with some *very* neat plot devices that made the story run seamlessly from start to finish.

Dedication in Brut Force by Peter Stafford-Bow
All the friends in high places me!

So, a fast-paced thriller in a wine-based world. What’s not to like?

I wonder if we’ll be seeing any more of Felix Hart?


Bestselling author and freelance drinks writer. Champion of pubs and breweries. Occasional printmaker.

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