Saturday, March 12, 2016

Review: Starboard Secrets by Hope Callaghan

I thought I would really like this book based on the premise: an older woman, Millie,  starts a new life with a job on a cruise ship after her husband dumps her for a younger woman.

The book opens with her arriving on a cruise ship to work as an assistant cruise director with no experience (a fact which even SHE questions).  First thing she sees a bunch of people standing over a dead body.  No word of police activity, investigators or anything.  Huh?  Next thing we know she has taken it upon herself to investigate and just starts questioning everyone she meets about the dead woman and who disliked her.  Huh?  Turns out the woman died of a brown recluse spider bite (intentionally murdered via spider bite???)  So that just made me irritated - young healthy people don't die from recluse bites.  Period.  Death is so rare that it is even hard to find cases and it certainly wouldn't cause a sudden death.  Lots of sickness, necrosis, eventually maybe gangrene leading to loss of a limb but no - get bitten, drop dead.... Not to mention how would a killer expect a spider that tries to avoid contact with people to bite and kill the victim?  It doesn't make sense.

Moving on, there is no real police investigation, just Millie and a nominal ship security officer that doesn't seem to do anything at all.

Then there is her motive for involvement -- to prove to her ex that ran a PI firm with her as admin support that she CAN?  I realize in cozies, getting the amateur sleuth's involvement to be involved is a tricky thing, but this is weak.  Then there are the interchangeable, flat, one-dimensional characters.  None are interesting because they aren't developed. Their interactions do not feel natural at all either.

This is also labeled a Christian cozy.  There are a few Bible quotes, she goes to church once and she prays a few times but I actually was a bit upset when she prayed for God to help HER solve the crime.  I think it annoyed me mostly because it wasn't let the crime be solved, or help the Police solve the crime but her.  It seemed so self-serving.  That is what I disliked the most:  it was all about HER solving the mystery - not justice for the victim or protecting someone wrongly accused or something noble at least.

So, the bottom line is that I normally give a lot of leeway when I see lots of good elements of a story that outweigh the bad, especially with the first in a series.  Honestly this time there really wasn't much I did like.  I can hope that as the series continues there is real character development and it gets more believable.  Maybe down the road I would be able to enjoy one but for now, if I want to read a cruise ship cozy, I will read Lori Avocato.


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