Q&A with Ellen Crosby, Author of The Vineyard Victims

Author photo by Jackie Briggs

Read this exclusive Q&A with Ellen Crosby, author of the Wine Country Mystery series, then make sure you're signed in and comment below for a chance to win a copy of The Vineyard Victims!

Ellen Crosby is back with another Wine Country Mystery! Beginning with The Merlot Murders, Lucie Montgomery returns for her eighth mystery in The Vineyard Victims (out today!), where the death of a former presidential candidate in a fiery car crash at her Virginia vineyard has ties to a 30-year-old murder, as well as to Lucie Montgomery’s own near-fatal accident ten years ago, as she searches for a killer who now may be stalking her.

Recently, Ellen took time out of her busy schedule to answer some of CrimeHQ's questions about her latest book, the transformation from economist to novelist, and what she's currently reading in this exclusive Q&A!

If you could team Lucie up with any other detective, real or fictional, who would it be and why?

If I could team Lucie up with any other detective, it would be Jessica Fletcher. Years ago, when I first showed up on the doorstep of Swedenburg Estate Vineyard in Middleburg, Virginia, to ask Juanita Swedenburg, the late owner, if she’d be willing to teach me about the business of growing grapes and making wine because I wanted to set a murder mystery at a vineyard, she said yes because she was a huge fan of the Murder, She Wrote series. I never forgot that statement and was glad that, years later, I was able to tell Donald Bain, who wrote the books (and sadly just passed away), about Jessica Fletcher’s influence on my wine country mysteries.

See also: Donald Bain: A Personal Remembrance

So the eponymous victim is a presidential candidate with a billion-dollar real estate operation. That seems pretty timely. Was that your intention, or does life just have a way of imitating art? What is your brainstorming process/how do you come up with those ideas?

A lot of celebrities own vineyards—including several in Virginia—so this seemed like a good vein to mine in my Wine Country series. When I first got the idea for The Vineyard Victims, Donald Trump hadn’t even decided to run for president—and Jamie Vaughn not only loses the election, but he dies under mysterious circumstances in Chapter 1. So art quickly stopped imitating life!

As for “brainstorming,” I’m always on the lookout for ideas; I keep a notebook with me wherever I go and am constantly jotting down my thoughts or someone’s comments or something I read or see that intrigues me. Invariably, my saved string sparks an idea, and I find I’ve got enough to germinate into a possible plot. Next, I head to the library and check out any book I can find on the subject—that usually leads to even more ideas, and it goes on from there.

What was the transition like from economist on Capitol Hill to freelance journalist to author? What draws you to crime fiction?

It was totally random and completely unplanned. I quit my job as an economist on the Hill when my journalist husband was transferred to Geneva, Switzerland, many years ago. Suddenly, I had a lot of free time on my hands and a one-year-old at home. To keep out of trouble—when I wasn’t working on learning French—I thought I’d try writing a novel. How hard could it be, right? It took 16 years and a segue into journalism before my first book was published in 2001 in London, and another five years before my next book was published in the US.

As to what draws me to crime fiction: in this day and age, when there is so much uncertainty and unease and people are anxious about what’s happening around them, I like writing about a world where there are justice and goodness, and people are punished for their wrongdoings.

What is the significance of setting your novels in Virginia?

Though I was born in Boston, I have lived in Virginia long enough to call it home. It’s a beautiful and history-rich state, and I can’t imagine setting my series anywhere else. 

What's your favorite line from The Vineyard Victims and why?

“My mother warned me to stay away from bad boys even before I started dating, but she’d married one herself—my father—and, as they say, apples don’t fall too far from the tree.”

Read an excerpt from The Vineyard Victims!

It’s the first line of the book; I’ve always believed you’ve got to have a dynamite opening line because that’s what everyone reads first—hopefully, it’s what hooks them and makes them decide they have to continue reading.

What do you want readers to think or feel after finishing this book?

I want them to be extremely tired and grumpy because they stayed up all night reading my book, which they simply couldn’t put down.

What would be your murder weapon of choice?

What else? Poisoned wine!

What are you currently reading?

The Planets by Dava Sobel and The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee (the latter recommended by Barbara Peters of The Poisoned Pen, when I was at the bookstore last year for The Champagne Conspiracy).

I just blurbed a new book that will be out from Minotaur next year called Murder at the Mill by M. B. Shaw, which I loved. And when I was in Toronto for the Bouchercon mystery conference a few weeks ago, I picked up several new books from the Sleuth of Baker Street, including Swiss Vendetta by Tracee de Hahn (whom I met in Toronto as well). Since I used to live in Switzerland near where the book is set, it’s right up my alley.

Are there any TV shows you're currently watching?

The Good Doctor, a new show on ABC, which is, interestingly, based on a South Korean television series. The main character, Dr. Shaun Murphy, is an American surgical resident who happens to be autistic and also has savant syndrome. My youngest son is autistic and works at a medical research laboratory—like Shaun Murphy, he has an amazing memory for certain things and remembers facts and events my husband and I have long forgotten.

Freddie Highmore, who plays the main character, is actually British and lives in the same part of north London where my family and I lived for 5 years. He’s only 25, and he’s also one of the show’s producers.

Describe The Vineyard Victims in five words or less.

Ex-presidential candidate dies, trouble follows.

Take a visual tour of The Vineyard Victims with GIFnotes!

Comment below for a chance to win a copy of The Vineyard Victims by Ellen Crosby!

To enter, make sure you're a registered member of the site and simply leave a comment below.

TIP: Since only comments from registered users will be tabulated, if your username appears in red above your comment—STOP—go log in, then try commenting again. If your username appears in black above your comment, You’re In!

The Vineyard Victims Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at https://www.criminalelement.com/blogs/2017/11/qa-with-ellen-crosby-author-of-the-vineyard-victims-comment-sweepstakes beginning at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) November 7, 2017. Sweepstakes ends 1:59 p.m. ET November 14, 2017. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.


To learn more or order a copy, visit:

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Ellen Crosby is the author of the Virginia wine country mystery series, which began with The Merlot Murders. She has also written a mystery series featuring international photojournalist Sophie Medina, and Moscow Nights, a standalone. Previously she was a freelance reporter for The Washington Post, Moscow correspondent for ABC News Radio, and an economist at the U.S. Senate.


  1. pat murphy


  2. Eric starker

    Sounds like a great read – would love a chance to win!

  3. Jackie

    I always enjoy new books

  4. Jackie

    I always enjoy new books

  5. Tad Ottman

    Sounds fun! I’d love to read.

  6. Nora-Adrienne Deret

    Of course Virginia has wines… In fact Rita Mae Brown’s character put land into grapes for extra income.

    I’d love to win your book and add it to my sub collection of books that take place in wine country.

  7. Sue Farrell

    I really enjoy the wine country settings.

  8. Michael Carter

    Looks good!
    Yes, please enter me in this sweepstakes.
    Thanks —

  9. Autumn Trapani

    This sounds like a fun read. Thank you for the giveaway!

  10. nellgirl

    looking forward to reading this one!

  11. jane

    Interview was interesting and already love this series.

  12. Carl

    I agree, Donald Bain’s recent passing was very sad, but he left us with some great stories. This series sounds excellent I’d love to win a copy of this book. Thanks.

  13. ellie lewis

    Wonderful series. This mystery sounds intriguing.

  14. pearl berger

    Fabulous series which I would enjoy.

  15. Pearl Berger

    Enjoyed the interview and this book is captivating.


    I love a good mystery!!

  17. Darlene Slocum

    It seems that I would enjoy this book and probably would continue to follow the series.

  18. Vernon Luckert

    Would love to win this one!

  19. Jacki Robertson

    Jacki R.
    Have loved the other books in this series and can’t wait to read this newest one.

  20. Jacki Robertson

    Jacki R.
    Have loved the other books in this series and can’t wait to read this newest one.

  21. L Peters

    sounds like a really interesting book. can’t wait to read it. thanks

  22. Lori P

    I’d be pleased to pernoctate with your books. Already have the tired and grumpy part down pat, and the satisfaction of having finished a great read would be bonus!

  23. lasvegasnv


  24. Margit Curtright


  25. John Smith

    “Vineyard Victims” looks good! And “The Planets” has an incredible cover!

  26. James Joyce

    I love a little wine, at night.

  27. Barbara Bolam

    This sounds like a “must read” book and being familiar with Virginia makes it that much more interesting.

  28. Barbara Bolam

    This sounds like a “must read” book and being familiar with Virginia makes it that much more interesting.

  29. Jackie Wisherd

    Sounds like a book I would enjoy reading.

  30. susan beamon

    I like wine. I used to drink lots of it. Now I like books even more This one needs to be in my library.

  31. Janice


  32. Laurent Latulippe

    Sounds like a fun read.

  33. Jennifer Hodges

    Ah! Wine and mystery! What could be better?

  34. Richard Brandt

    Well, life could have imitated life just a LITTLE more.

  35. Pat Dupuy

    Wine. Murder. Virginia. I don’t think we need too much more. Looking forward to reading this book!

  36. MaryC

    Looking forward to reading the latest Vineyard mystery.

  37. elsie321

    sounds like a good read.

  38. Polly Barlow

    “The Vineyard Victims” sounds like a great addition to the Wine Country Mysteries. I do want to read the latest by Ellen Crosby.

  39. Susan Morris

    Thank you for the chance to win a copy of “The Vineyard Victims”.

  40. Marisa Young

    Love the Wine Country mysteries. Can’t wait for this one.

  41. Joyce Lokitus

    So much I enjoy about your books, but probably most would be the vineyard element and the characters, and I also enjoy the Murder She Wrote books so that was interesting to read your connection.


    thanks for chance

  43. vicki wurgler

    thanks I like the cover

  44. Patrick Murphy

    Sounds like a good read

  45. Suzanne Timmsen

    You are an author that is keeping us moving to new places.

  46. Kristi Beard

    I always love a good read and winning is a plus! Thanks 🙂

  47. Kristi Beard

    I always love a good read and winning is a plus! Thanks 🙂

  48. Jane Schwarz

    Nice interview. Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy of “The Vineyard Victims”.

  49. Pat Murphy

    Interesting interview with a good premise.

  50. Marilyn Gallant

    I love these mysteries! As a native Washingtonian and former resident of Northern Virginia, I am familiar with many of the landmarks. My husband and I met Mrs. Swedenburg. She was a feisty lady! It was a sad day when her winery was sold after her passing. Thank you for the opportunity to add this novel to my collection of your books.

  51. Karen Terry

    Sounds like a fun read.

  52. Barbara Bates

    Sounds like a good one! Thank you for the chance to win!

  53. Barbara Bibel

    I enjoy this series and can’t wait to read the new one.

  54. L

    Wine and a murder mystery….what a combo!

  55. Shannon Baas

    I would like this.

  56. Sandy Klocinski

    Looks like an interesting read. I’d love to win. Mysteries are my favorite

  57. Susan Smoaks

    thank you for the chance to win

  58. Sandra Slack

    Thanks for the chance to enjoy this new book.


    Love a good mystery.
    This will be first time to read Ellen Crosby.
    I read great things about her books.

  60. Mallory Bailey

    Sounds like an interesting read. Thanks for the chance!

  61. Mallory Bailey

    Sounds like an interesting read. Thanks for the chance!

  62. Susan Smith

    Sounds like a good book.

  63. Veronica Sandberg

    want, want, want

  64. Veronica Sandberg

    want, want, want

  65. Daniel Morrell

    always like a mystery

  66. binabug

    I’m starting to run out of books to read (I love re-reading books though)

  67. Ann Muth

    wine and books!

  68. Carol Ezovski

    I love the cover on the book. Poisened wine would be a great way to go. LOL.

  69. Jeanette Jackson

    I’d like to win this!

  70. Lisa Pecora

    This looks interesting.

  71. Leela

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  72. Kim Keithline

    sounds like a great book

  73. Richard Hicks

    My kind of book!

  74. Kimberly Dull

    This seems like a fun read!

  75. Linda Peters

    this would be a great read, thanks

  76. Stephanie Liske

    Thank you.

  77. Betty Curran

    This looks like a great book.

  78. Terry Hodges

    I love Ellen Crosby books and would love to read this one too…..sounds very interesting.

  79. Terry Hodges

    I love Ellen Crosby books and would love to read this one too…..sounds very interesting.

  80. Buddy Garrett

    It sounds like a great read. Thanks.

  81. Fredrick Pauly

    looking for a good book.

  82. Jodi Hassel

    Thanks for the chance to win!

  83. Philip Lawrence

    Sounds like a “Grape” book to me!

Comments are closed.