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"His blood alcohol content is 20%. Not point-two-zero percent, mind you. Twenty percent. Some three hundred times the legal limit. If he weren't dead, he'd be dead."
In retrospect, putting the Inter-Nation Liquor Connoisseurs' convention in the same hotel as the Worldwide Beer & Ale Brewers annual meeting may have been a mistake. But the killings were intentional as the absense of peat during the barley-drying phase of the creation of Bushmill's 10-year Irish whisky.
Lucas Davenport is a U.S. Marshall, and he doesn't know whisky from whiskey. He wouldn't normally be investigating this sort of thing, but he's a friend of a senator who happens to be a guest of honor at both conventions. And so Lucas finds himself stuck in an investigation quite unlike anything he's ever faced, like a Absolut martini mixed with Cheez-Its.
For starters, there are far too many witnesses. Everyone, it seems, has seen something. But when your thousand-plus witnesses may or may not have been drinking the finest of Polish vodkas, French wines, Mexican tequilas and everything else under the sun for the better part of a week it starts to strain the definition of unreliable. None of them can agree what happened, how it happened, how many people were involved, or even what month it is.
But then someone else ends up dead, having drowned in a jacuzzi filled with Yamazaki 12-year single malt. Nobody at the convention, Lucas realizes, would waste that much top-shelf alcohol on a murder. And he knows that, whatever the reason for the killings, he's got to solve it quickly, or someone's next drink... will be their last.