Vicki Doudera’s third mystery begins with suspense and drama, and it’s sustained through all 312 pages.

Selena Thompson, the 44-year-old owner of California’s Carson Creek Winery, goes for a late afternoon soak in her hot tub. As is her custom, she pours a glass of her farm’s exquisite wine to enjoy in the spa.

As she settles into the warm water, she tries to rid her mind of worries. Somebody has been vandalizing her wine crop and estate. She’s been diagnosed with a serious illness, and she’s decided to sell the winery.

After sipping from her glass, a wave of sickness overtakes Selena. She tries to climb out of the spa, but instead slumps unconscious to the bottom of the hot tub.

At the conclusion of this disturbing scene, Doudera describes a figure creeping toward the semi-outdoor spa. “With a gloved hand,” she writes, “the intruder nudged Selena’s wine glass into the water. It splashed and then sank, coming to rest on her mottled white thigh.”

Identity of the intruder isn’t revealed until the book’s final pages, and it’s a wild ride most of the way.

The heroine of Doudera’s third novel is the same character who stars in her earlier two: Darby Farr, a Maine-born real estate agent who’s also an amateur detective. In “Deadly Offer,” readers find Darby working for a high-end real estate firm in San Diego, Calif. She gets involved in the Selena case because her associate at the agency is Selena’s brother.

Though “Deadly Offer” is a book sure to be loved by mystery readers, its superhero main character is unbelievably perfect. She’s beautiful, sexy, and an extraordinary amateur detective. Her mastery of martial arts gets her out of tight spots and, as if that’s not enough, her rugged journalist boyfriend is as perfect as she is.

When the two of them get together over food and wine, it’s a bit like Ken and Barbie having dinner.

But Doudera’s main character is likeable, and “Deadly Offer” has so many good points that readers shouldn’t be turned away by this one fault.

The author has a genius for making her book’s complex plot understandable by way of character dialogue. When Darby discusses the case with her boyfriend, or talks with other characters, events are summed up and interpreted so a reader misses nothing.

In real life, Doudera is a resident of Camden, where she’s a broker with a real estate firm. In 2009, the National Association of Realtors named her Realtor of the Year. She’s written nonfiction for magazines including Reader’s Digest, and is a board member of Sisters in Crime, New England.

“Deadly Offer” is a fun book. It skates to the edge of being a cozy, avoiding too much blood and gore. Doudera’s gift for words will put you in the heart of California wine country turned dangerous by criminal greed.

Lloyd Ferriss is a writer and photographer who lives in Richmond.