Saturday, June 22, 2024

A Vacation to Kill For

 A Vacation to Kill For by Eunice Mays Boyd with Elizabeth Reed Aden

Olive Wallace is your typical wealthy older woman with various relatives and hangers-on who all expect to be remembered in her will. She also (per usual) entertains herself with regularly writing them in and out of her will, depending on who has fallen out of favor most recently. And, in classic detective fiction fashion, she gathers them all around her--though not a country house to announce the latest will re-write. Olive decides to do things in style and takes them all on a long. leisurely bus tour through post-WWII Europe. 

They're headed for the ancient fortress city of Carcassonne in the South of France when the accidents begin. When the group stops on a bridge near Avignon, Olive falls in to the river and only the quick action of Henri, their driver, saves the woman who cannot swim. Then at the Nimes Colosseum, she falls down the stairs but is again rescued before plunging all the way to the bottom--this time by her secretary Brian. Her friend and companion Allegra tries to convince her that these are more than accidents, but she isn't convinced until she narrowly escapes being run over by a bus after someone gives her a shove. The worst happens when a young woman is stabbed to death near their hotel. A young woman who was wearing the suit that Olive had given away after it was damaged in one of the "accidents." Allegra does her best to play amateur detective, but will she be able to discover the killer before s/he hits the correct target?

Slow to start--introducing all the characters and fitting them into place, but the pace seems to fit with the leisurely bus trip through the French countryside. It's a solid mystery with plenty of suspects, but I am a bit disappointed in Allegra, our self-styled amateur detective. She's not really very good at it and the solution has to wait until Olive's lawyer (whom she has summoned) arrives on the scene. I much prefer Boyd's grocer sleuth, F. Millard Smyth. He actually does some detecting worthy of the name. It's also a bit disconcerting that after the slow start and slow pace we have a fairly abrupt ending. The lawyer shows up and just solves the mystery--no real detecting on his part either. The descriptions of the fortified city are fantastic as are the descriptions of the countryside along the way. The plot itself is pretty good though I would have liked a bit more clues (real and false). All told this is an entertaining afternoon's read. ★★ 

This novel's manuscript (along with others) was found among Boyd's things after her death and her goddaughter, Elizabeth Aden, has worked to prepare the stories for publication. I'm grateful to her for sending me a copy to review. I recommend you check them out--particularly those featuring F. Millard Smyth. I accepted this free copy with the understanding that I would provide and honest review and have received no other compensation of any kind.

First line: The rain began to fall.

Last line: "Now we must call the police."

Deaths = two stabbed

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