Friday, May 10, 2013

Book Review: Set Sail for Murder by Carolyn Hart (Henrie O Mysteries #7)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong story and memorable characters
Cons: Just a few minor issues.
The Bottom Line:
If Henrie O sails
Off with this book it will be
With good memories

Henrie O Sails After a Six Year Absence

Carolyn Hart is well known for her Death on Demand mysteries, but she has another couple series floating around out there.  One of them is the Henrie O series, starring retired reporter Henrietta O'Dwyer Collins.  Ms. Hart wrote six books with Henrie O during the late 90's and early 00's.  For most of this decade, she concentrated on the Death on Demand books.  But 2007 saw the return of Henrie O after a six year absence with Set Sail for Murder.  I've got to tell you, this is a very strong mystery.

Henrie O hasn't heard from her old friend Jimmy Lennox is years.  But when he calls out of the blue, Henrie can't resist helping.  Seems his wife Sophia has narrowly escaped death once and maybe twice.  Now Sophia is leaving on a Baltic cruise with her step-children, who also happen to be the prime suspects in Jimmy's mind.

Henrie agrees to join the cruise, although no one seems to buy the coincidence of her being on board the ship with them.  As things progress, Henrie learns that there is little love lost between Sophia and her step-kids.  But could the old pain be enough to drive one of them to murder?  Or is the motive a more recent hurt?  Might their trust funds have something to do with it?  Can Henrie figure it out in time to save Sophia's life?

These books have a definitely formula to them.  Henrie O is asked by a friend to investigate a problem, usually in an exhausted location.  Early in the book, we are introduced to all the suspects in the case and given background on them.  And this entry is no exception.  Of course, many of the books I read have a certainly formula to them, so what really matters to me is how the formula is executed.  Here, the book shines.

The characters are strong.  Normally, I have to refer to the chapter that introduces all the characters several times before I get them all down.  That wasn't the case here at all.  They were given plenty of personality early on, so whenever they walked on page, I had no trouble remembering how they fit into the overall story.

And boy was that story strong.  There was so much conflict from the very beginning that I could feel the tension.  And it made me want to keep reading.  I really struggled putting the book down because I just had to know what would happen next.

The travel aspect of the book was strong as well.  We get to visit such places as Copenhagen, Gdynia, Tallinn, and St. Petersburg.  The writing brought these places to life for me.  It was a great way to take a trip very cheaply.

On the other hand, one of my pet peeves with Ms. Hart's writing style was evident here.  Every so often, she would interrupt something that Henrie was reading or something another character was saying to give us Henrie's thoughts.  Since the book was written first person, I didn't have a problem with getting her thoughts on events.  But interrupting mid-sentence, which happens on more than one occasion, was annoying to me.  Fortunately, this happened more in the beginning of the book than later, so as I got further into the story, I was annoyed less and less.

I will admit, I guessed the villain's identity early.  And the final 100 pages began to drag until the push toward the climax.  But I was still on the edge of my seat to see if I was correct when it came time to unmask the evil doer.

Set Sail for Murder is a strong entry in what has been an uneven series.  It should please Carolyn Hart's many fans and anyone who enjoys an engaging mystery.

Since this is the end of the series, you might want to track back and catch the rest of the Henrie O Mysteries in order.

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