Thursday, September 23, 2021

Blake Pierce - Murder (and Baklava)

When London Rose, 33, is proposed to by her long-time boyfriend, she realizes she is facing a stable, predictable, pre-determined (and passionless) life. She freaks out and runs the other way—accepting instead a job across the Atlantic, as a tour-guide on a high-end European cruise line that travels through a country a day. London is searching for a more romantic, unscripted and exciting life that she feels sure exists out there somewhere.
London is elated: the European river towns are small, historic and charming. She gets to see a new port every night, gets to sample an endless array of new cuisine and meet a stream of interesting people. It is a traveler’s dream, and it is anything but predictable.
But when a wealthy, high-maintenance passenger suddenly turns up dead outside of Budapest, the cruise has become a bit too unpredictable. Even worse: as the last person to see her alive, suspicion falls on London, leaving her no choice but to solve the crime (with her new sidekick, an orphaned dog), and save her cruise line and herself.

Comment: I saw this book mentioned at a page with book deals and I was able to get it for free, which allied to the intriguing premise, made it very easy for me to decide to add it to my TBR.

In this cozy mystery story, we follow heroine London Rose, a tour guide who works in cruises, as she is offered a new job in Europe, something she hasn't done in a long time, ever since her mother left. From then on, to avoid memories, she has been doing Caribbean tours but the company is in financial trouble and the owner has created a new rout in Europe, hoping to renovate the brand. London leaves her stressful days at her sisters' house to be the social director on the new cruise but on her first day things are already complicated, with some demanding guests proving to be a challenge. Things get worse when one of them, an older lady, dies suddenly at a church and the owner now wants London to solve the case so the cruise can carry on and not too much money is lost. Can London actually do it?

Cozy mysteries aren't usually a type of book I read. Nothing against it but I've read some and (possibly unfairly) they all seem to be repetitive even if with different settings, because the structure has to follow some sort of pattern. At least, according to my experience. Nevertheless, this one got me curious because the heroine would be young, a tour guide (like myself but I don't work in cruises) and I assumed we would have some sort of romance or a wonderful secondary theme - apart from the mystery - with the protagonist and her co workers perhaps, developing friendships. I know it's too easy to create expectations and imagine things the way we would wish them, but I was a little disappointed with the content.

This is the first book I try by this author and I didn't dislike it but the style was very on point, no fuss, no silliness apart from what the scenes would present, which means things are told in a very simple and straightforward way, almost too robotic and I think this made it more difficult for me to empathize with the heroine. I think a bit more warmth or, well, coziness, in the writing could have helped. The beginning was good enough, setting the plot, the characters, I enjoyed the little descriptions of the tasks the heroine had to do... I liked the fact she was adventurous and how much she liked her job...I feel a little envious but also a little amazed by how some people seem so fearless on how they go and leave everything behind...

The murder only happens more or less half way and until then, things were established in a very meticulous way, it felt like there wasn't anything to doubt but as the heroine started to put the pieces together, along with some red herrings, an idea started to be formed. Still, I think the investigation method was very plain and without any fun or wow moments. I practically missed the whole thing until the heroine suddenly checks the murdered character's room and with a conversation or two solves the case. Not that I would want complex clues put together as we can see in big thrillers but everything felt a little rushed and too simple...since the secondary issues weren't amazing either, the whole book felt monotonous.

As for the other elements I thought would be part of the book, the heroine's co workers weren't fleshed out - as the heroine wasn't either - so I finished the book without any real idea about them nor their personalities. There was no romance either. Again, not that it had to, I just figured it might be something that could be included. All put together made for an interesting story but not that amazing that I want to rush to read more.

My favorite part was actually the descriptions of Hungary traditions, the descriptions of Budapest and Gyor and that did sound great, making me want to be there and seeing those things for myself. The next book is set in Vienna....the city I most want to visit before I die, which means I'll likely read that one too... just not so soon...
Grade: 6/10

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