November Nouveau: Reading Sanctum #16

As a card carrying bibliophile, (yes, I still have a library card) I am constantly looking for great deals to pass on to our dear and wonderful followers. (I write that as if I derive pleasure solely in being able to communicate to you a book bargain, but if I am completely honest, I derive pleasure in reading the book bargain that I found and then, sharing that with you. I am a bibliophile, after all.) Recently (in 2020), a book series hit the market called Caribbean Cruise Cozy Mystery Series.

Last month, the series was collected and compiled into a 12 book boxset for 99 cents. Every novel in the set is novella length (about 108 pages each give or take a page, which means that each story could be completed in two hours or a little more). I read them on my phone Kindle app about one per night for two weeks. I was familiar with the author, Susan Harper who is an international, bestselling writer who has written over 100 cozy mysteries with various different MacGuffins to set each series apart. (MacGuffin is a plot device that serves to trigger the story, or hold it together.)

In this series of mysteries, Hope Harper is a young woman, who at 22 works for a Caribbean Cruise line, aboard the Caribbean Honey (the name of the ship). In the first book, titled Drugged on Deck Hope believes that after working for four years with the cruise line she is due a promotion. In fact, the head of the Event department is retiring and she all but promised that Hope would be her replacement, but she is not the final arbiter. The owner of the cruise line has the final say, and he chooses someone with no experience: a young man that unwittingly irritates Hope at every turn.

There also happens to be a family reunion transpiring where some of the guests are loud and obnoxious. When one of them dies suddenly, it appears that he was killed by someone who will benefit financially from the death. Hope is involved because she caused her newest co-worker to be cast under suspicion and she winds up having to do some investigating despite not being a part of the security staff. In this book, Hope is written as if she still harbors a petty resentment, but as the series goes on, Hope’s character becomes stronger and more honorable.

Dead in the Water is the second novella in the Caribbean Cruise Cozy mystery series by Susan Harper. When Hope Harper and her crewmates from the Caribbean Honey are invited onshore for a company party, one of the partiers gets shot by what appears to be one of her crewmates. Not believing that her friend is capable of murder, she jumps to his defense and begins to investigate.

Although I find the novellas interesting, I still at this point had my doubts about Hope as a protagonist. She continued to be short with the man that received what she considered to be her promotion. He seemed to take her nastiness in stride, but this could have become pretty annoying very quickly. A protagonist should not be a shrew and IMHO after two books, she was getting there.

Stolen at Sea is the third novella in the Caribbean Cruise Cozy mystery series by Susan Harper. It involves an art auction aboard the ship with a highly coveted painting containing a message for finding a hidden treasure, so in-demand that someone is willing to kill for it.

Felix Fitter and Hope Harper are tasked with finding the stolen painting and the reality is that they have been put on a collision course with the murderer who will stop at nothing to acquire the treasure. In this installment, the reader learns a little bit as to why Felix is chosen as the head of the Event department ahead of Hope and some of his backstory. This is a quick-paced mystery with several red herrings and plot twists. This was a fun read completed in one evening. Hope Harper becomes a lot more likeable in this story.

Excursions to Die For is the fourth novella in the Caribbean Cruise Cozy series by Susan Harper. These stories are all designed to be read in 2 hours more or less and to be read in one sitting with a hot tea or coffee. The violence is not overtly graphic, and the language is not filled with vulgarities. Although I’m not one to shy away from the F-bombs, the lack of them is notable.

Here a new excursion is offered by the cruise line and during the adventure, another dead body. The overarching story with Felix and Hope is progressing with them continuing to play amateur sleuth. Honestly, with the way they work together, they may as well be dating and working security. I have already stated that Hope’s bitterness about not getting a promotion was making her an unlikeable character, but with each installment she demonstrates growth. A really good addition to the series.

Violence on Vacation is the 5th novella of the series. I do not care about the improbable scenario of several murders occurring on a cruise line over the course of a few months. In order to have a cohesive series with a similar thread running as a through line, we mystery fans go with it (think of Cabot Cove with a younger Jessica Fletcher.) Let us be honest, the setting is merely a way to tell several mystery stories with a theme that ties the stories together. That’s one of the reasons mystery series on TV and books are so long-lived.

Here, Hope’s sister Morgan brings along a group of her college friends to enjoy the luxuries aboard the Caribbean Honey. When one of them dies, Hope with Felix at her side, undertake to determine who is the murderer, but did they already capture the murderer while Morgan sits in the brig? Is it possible that Hope does not know her sister as well as she believes she does? In this story, the reader learns a great deal about Hope’s backstory and why she needs to be so investigative. It all makes sense in this story.

I think I will end my review here. There is really so much fun to this series. I laugh at the continuously innovative ways that Harper gets Hope involved in murder mysteries. It will require a suspension of disbelief in the fact that these circumstances occur in a continuous stream of stories, but again, mystery fans should be accustomed to the contrivances of mysteries.

I felt that this collection was a real bargain. 12 stories for 99 cents. Each story, novella length (no more than 110 pages each). Enough for 2 to 2 and a half hours of reading per night for 2 weeks. I think it is a great way to satisfy any reading goal that you might have set on Goodreads or anywhere else. I was thoroughly entertained and enjoyed my time reading. I like the writer and anticipate purchasing more of her collections.

I saw she has a Granny Vigilante mystery series that has my attention. Can you believe it? I $#!+ you not! As always, I thank you for reading my post. I am going to go do some more reading now in my Reading Sanctum. See you later. Take it easy. Be at peace!

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