Picture it. Another wild Friday night at the Bat Cave. I'm lying in bed, with a copy of Killer Cruise by Laura Levine on my night stand. Entering, stage left, My Man.
My Man: Why is Garfield on your book?
Me: That's not Garfield, that's Prozac.
My Man: ::gives girlfriend funny look, starts laughing:: Not a romance novel, eh?
I've been trying to kick-start my flagging reading mojo, and I figured spending the weekend with the latest Jaine Austen (no relation) mystery from Levine was the perfect way to do it. The best way to describe this series, of which this is book eight? They're like a sitcom in book format. A really good, very funny sitcom. Poor Jaine is unlucky in love, always flat broke, has two borderline insane parents and a pet cat, Prozac, who runs her life.
Killer Cruise finds Jaine taking a job on a cruise ship, as one of their lecturers. She teaches a writing class, and in exchange she gets to spend a week cruising around Mexico. Soaking up the sun. Relaxing. Working on crossword puzzles. Diving into the 24-hour all-you-can-eat buffet. However the whole thing gets off to a bad start when she discovers a stowaway. Yep, her kitty Prozac was not willing to be left at home. So Jaine has no choice but to smuggle him on-board, and hope that no one spots the little guy. Or else it's a week in quarantine. Kitty prison.
As often happens to Jaine, it all heads south. One of the ship's stewards spots Prozac and blackmails Jaine into editing his 900-page, grammatically incorrect, and massively misspelled opus about a ship steward turned secret agent. Her writing class isn't much of a hit, with few students, one of whom keeps comparing Jaine (and not favorably) to Mary Higgins Clark. Then there is the fact that her nightly dinner companions have all the charm of the Manson family.
The Pritchard clan includes Aunt Emily, a spinster with oodles of money and a penchant for cruises; her "companion," the sour-faced Ms. Nesbitt; her money-grubbing nephew, Kyle, along with his dowdy wife, Maggie; and lastly, another nephew, Robbie, a drop-dead gorgeous hunk who seems interested in Jaine....romantically! Will wonders never cease?
Unfortunately it all goes to hell when Graham Palmer III sets his sights on Emily. He's a cruise employee whose job it is to dance with the single ladies. He starts dancing with Emily, and the next thing you know, the two are engaged! A bit of a shock to everyone, including Graham's girlfriend, Cookie, who is suspect numero uno when Graham is found dead with an ice pick rammed in his chest. Cookie may have been mighty pissed off, but Jaine has a hard time believing the woman capable of murder. And so the snooping begins!
Several things I like about this series is that Levine keeps the action light and fun, while still providing a good mystery. Eliminating Cookie, the author gives us six viable suspects in the murder. Some of them have more motive than others, but they all have some motive. It gives the author a lot of wiggle room, and keeps the reader guessing. I can also usually count on one genuinely funny moment, and it comes here when Jaine goes snooping and finds herself temporarily hiding out in a closet. I literally laughed out loud, making unlady-like snorting noises - which prompted My Man to say, "Something funny?" Um, yeah, actually. Now that you mention it...
The author wraps up everything, from the murder to Jaine's editing the manuscript from Hell, to the fact that her parents are staying in her apartment for the week (Oy!). As I've come to expect, this latest entry in one of my favorite series was a lot of fun, and I particularly liked the resolution of the mystery (OK, so it strains a bit - but still, I found it inspired). And now I'm back at the same spot I find myself in every June. Waiting for next year, and the next Jaine Austen mystery, in order to get my fix. Bugger.
Final Grade = B