Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Death in Zanzibar: Review
Dany Ashton is an innocent abroad. Brought up by a very strict, ultra-protective aunt, she has seen very little of the world and this story is about her first excursion alone. And it just might wind up being her last.
Dany's mother hasn't been much of one. She has made her way through several husbands and is currently married to the famous author, Tyson Frost. They decide to invite Dany to Zanzibar where Frost (through his father, the rakish Emory Frost) has rights to Kivulimi: "The House of Shade", a house bestowed up Emory as a gift from a local potentate. Dany is thrilled at the chance to finally see the world and has great plans to have a good time.
Before she leaves she has been commissioned to stop by Frost's lawyer's house and pick up an important envelope. She changes the appointment time from afternoon to morning and that's when her planned vacation begins to fall apart. The lawyer is killed not long after Dany's visit and the police are interested in finding the "mysterious young woman" who was seen leaving the scene. She obstinately refuses to identify herself with the authorities because she doesn't want her chance at an exotic trip to be cancelled.
Her hotel room is ransacked, her passport is stolen, and she manages to lock herself out of her hotel room in the middle of the night. Enter Lash Holden--handsome and impetuous son of a friend of her stepfather's--who is also in the hotel waiting to leave for Zanzibar. Lash is spending his last hours getting thoroughly drunk in response to being jilted by his fiancee and comes across Dany in the hotel hallway on his return from his binge. He comes up with a plan for Dany to impersonate his secretary (who conveniently has the mumps and who Dany happens to vaguely resemble--enough to get by on her passport).
With a quick dye-job turning Dany into a rather dowdy looking redhead, they manage to smuggle Dany past the airport officials and are on their way. But danger follows them. A fellow passenger is poisoned on the journey and then one of her step-father's house guests falls to her death from a stone staircase. Clues are constantly being planted to frame Dany even after the envelope's contents disappear, but they manage to foil the murderer's plans. Will they manage to unmask the villain before s/he decides to eliminate Dany altogether?
This is a fun, light, romantic mystery. Dany is a shade too babe-in-the-woods. Honestly, I don't drink and hadn't been out amongst people who did much--but I recognized my first drunk when I saw him. It does seem a bit unlikely that she had no idea that Lash was plastered when she first met him. But--I suppose it's necessary to suspend one's disbelief in order for the story to proceed as planned. The cast of characters, witty dialogue, and spectacular descriptions and local color (based on Kaye's notebooks from her trip to Zanzibar) all make the read well worthwhile. Three and a half stars.