Sunday, April 28, 2013

Book Review: Murder Packs a Suitcase by Cynthia Baxter (Murder Packs a Suitcase #1)

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Mallory, fun trips, good story
Cons: Tad slow to start, set up for the climax, one plot point
The Bottom Line:
Fun despite the flaws
So take this murderous trip
Relax and enjoy

Pack Your Suitcase for This Fun Debut

When Cynthia Baxter's first book came out, I bought it.  And there it has sat on my bookshelf ever since.  Now she's started working on a second series.  I picked up the first book, Murder Packs a Suitcase determined to read it.  I enjoyed it so much I am now determined to go back and read her other series.

Mallory Marlowe is ready to pick up the pieces.  It's been six months since her husband died in an accident.  She's not sure she is ready, but she heads out to interview with The Good Life and lands a job as the magazine's new travel writer.  Her first assignment is to rediscover the Old Florida tourist destinations that tend to be overshadowed now by The Mouse and his competitors.  She'll be part of a press tour of the area.

The trip gets off to a rocky start when Mallory has a nasty run in with a fellow passenger on the plane.  But she shakes it off, until she discovers that Phil Diamond is part of the trip.  And he's just as nasty at the group's initial meeting.  Still, Mallory is shocked to find him floating face down in the fountain before their reception that evening.  The police quickly zero in on her as a suspect even though she'd just met the man.  Determined to clear herself, Mallory talking to her traveling companions and discovers just how small the world of travel writing really is.  Is one of her new friends a killer?

The things that really drew me to this book was Mallory.  She is a contrast between strength and determination while still grieving for her husband.  I found that mix very appealing.  She never wallowed too much in her grief, which probably helped in her appeal, yet it still felt real.  And I have a feeling I will enjoy her interaction with her college age kids and a new love interest in future books.

I was a bit worried when we met the suspects all in one scene.  But I needn't have worried.  The characters are colorful and distinct.  I never once had to go back to figure out who anyone was.

The book starts out a bit slowly as it sets up the premise, but once Mallory arrives in Florida, the plot moves forward fairly steadily.  A couple of the side trips slow things down for a few pages, but most of them end up providing a clue for Mallory to follow.  I reached the correct conclusion about the same time Mallory did.

Honestly, some of the travel was just as much fun as the mystery.  Mallory's article is included at the end with phone numbers and web address for the locations mentioned in the book.  Believe me, if I ever make it back to Florida, I intend to visit one of two of them myself.

The book is well written in a very intimate third person style.  The pages went by much too quickly, and I found myself thinking about the story when I wasn't reading.

Unfortunately, the book does have a couple of small flaws.  There is one bit of coincidence that doesn't sit well with me.  I saw it coming a mile away, and yet I wish the author hadn't included it.  Secondly, Mallory was extremely stupid at the climax.  Surely it could have been set up better.

These two flaws didn't ruin my overall enjoyment of Murder Packs a Suitcase, however.  I enjoyed Mallory's company and look forward to traveling with her again in the near future.

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