For our second mystery puzzle, after "Grounds for Murder, we tried "Foul Play & Cabernet," by the same company.
The story isn't subtle; a man hates his business partner and loves his business partner's wife. He murders the partner. There is a witness, but the body is hidden in the wine cellar.
As a story, it relies to much on telling when it should be showing. The murderer's emotions are repeatedly described to us. Otherwise, serviceable, but forgettable.
The mystery itself is a bore. The writer all but says who the murderer is, and strongly insinuates where the body is.
The physical production is almost identical to Grounds for Murder, so I'll just repeat the same text. The only exception is that one pair of pieces were so poorly cut that even with a crafting knife, we were unable to separate them.
Physically the puzzle is okay. The box is nice. Out of the 1,000 pieces, maybe a dozen or two pairs of pieces were still connected, and the backing tore when we separated them. On the up side, they handle well and fit together well. You can usually tell if a piece is in the correct spot purely by how well it fits.
Mechanically, and excepting edges, puzzle pieces come in only one shape two opposing sides have a tab, the other two opposing sides have blanks. As a result, the pieces form a checkerboard of sorts, with half of the times having the tabs arranged vertically, the other half horizontally. The vertical pieces are typically thinner than the horizontal pieces, simplifying the puzzle.
Corners always have exactly 4 pieces coming together, and the edge between two adjoining pieces is reasonably smooth, allowing confirmation of a fit by running your finger over the edge.
This is a disappointing image. It's a mixture of staged photography and digital composition. Unfortunately, it's not well done. That it is a composite is quite obvious, and the result is confusing and unbelievable. Large areas are blurry. There are perspective problems. There are repeatedly elements that are clearly copied and pasted. There are many blurry pieces, many black and near black pieces, and many muddy brown, pieces, and they're all difficult to distinguish and match. We spent a lot of time on them and did not enjoy it. Complicating things, there are some reddish browns; if you're red-green colorblind, you'll probably find they look identical to many of the non-reddish browns. Given all of this, it was difficult to find a good starting point, or to group pieces. We did a lot of brute forcing, just trying piece after piece in a location until we found the match. Most of the final 100 pieces were brute forced.
"Who killed Ernie Field? How did they do it? Where is the body?"
The first and second questions are obvious, the story all but tells us.
The third question is the real one. Narratively, however, it's nonsense. The writer clearly has no idea how warrants are issued, how police searches are conducts, what sound a common object makes, or how a central item in the story functions. The "solution" is inconsistent in how part of the crime was committed, and neither one makes a lot of sense.
But despite the bizarro world logic, the mystery is easy. The relevant clues are easy to see, with a key part being relatively obvious. There is also a strong redundant clue, oddly unmentioned in the solution. Because it's so easy, it's not very satisfying.
This just isn't very good, and it's hard to recommend to anyone.