Friday, June 10, 2016

Oliver Twisted (An Ivy Meadows Mystery #3)

Author:  Cindy Brown
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Paperback; Ebook
ISBN #:  9781635110449; 9781635110418
Henery Press
280 Pages
$31.95; $15.95; $4.99 Amazon
June 21, 2016

Five Stars

Thieves.  Murder.  And an All-You-Can-Eat Buffet!  When Ivy Meadows lands a gig with the book-themed cruise line Get Lit!, she thinks she's died and gone to Broadway.  Not only has she snagged a starring role in a musical production of Oliver Twist, she's making bank helping her PI uncle investigate a string of onboard thefts, all while sailing to Hawaii on the S. S. David Copperfield.  But Ivy is cruising for disaster.  Her acting contract somehow skipped the part about aerial dancing forty feet above the stage, her Uncle Bob is seriously sidetracked by a suspicious blonde, and - oh yeah - there's a corpse in her closet.  Forget catching crooks.  Ivy's going to have a Dickens of a time just surviving.


Ivy Meadows is on a cruise ship, ready to perform in a seagoing version of Oliver Twist.  But she's not there as just a performer - both she and her Uncle Bob are undercover (he as a wealthy rancher) in order to discover who is stealing items from passengers traveling on the Get Lit! cruise line.  If they do solve the mystery of the thefts, they'll each receive a healthy bonus which will put a nice amount in Ivy's bank account.

But it doesn't bode well when Ivy enters her small stateroom and finds the body of her roommate stuffed in the small closet.  Nor when she's forced into another stateroom with a performer who hates her and doesn't try to hide it.  It also doesn't help that she's still not fond of the water, a precocious child actor is doing his best to cause problems (including pickpocketing tourists), a Russian performer is trying to get her in the sack, she has to perform forty feet above the stage (without a net) and her uncle is apparently hooked but good on an attractive blonde who may not be who she claims she is.  There's also the fact that her brother Cody has disappeared, and Ivy, stuck on the boat, can't do anything about it, especially with the spotty cell reception.

So how is she going to find out who the guilty parties are?  Along with those mentioned above, there's also Jonas, the director of the play, who brought along his stepfather Theo Pushwright, who has no problem proselytizing his beliefs to anyone who will listen, and selling his book, Positively Powerful, and his ghostwriter, Madalina; not to mention it could also involve any one of the crew members.  Eventually Ivy even has nagging suspicions about her friend and fellow actor Timothy, who got her the job in the first place.

With no dearth of suspects, and no real clues to go on, Ivy and Bob have their work cut out for them.  But it's even tougher when Ivy is supposed to remain in character - as Nancy, a character from Oliver who is murdered by her boyfriend - at any and all hours, to 'work the ship,' so to speak.  It isn't until there's a second death that Ivy starts to put the pieces together, but discovers she still may not have it right, and gets help from an unlikely source...

This is the third book in the Ivy Meadows series, and just as much fun as the first two.  Ms. Brown grabs us with the first few paragraphs and keeps our attention throughout the book, wanting not only to know who committed murder, but also the outcome of the many subplots, which includes Ivy's predilection for originally 'picking the wrong horse'.  Ivy is an endearing character, and even though she has flaws like anyone else, her love of both her brother and her uncle show us that her heart is always right where it's supposed to be.  She somehow manages to juggle both her careers (as an actress and a private investigator) and still come through shining in the end.

When we finally find out who the murderer is, and why they did it, it is rather sad, but we still feel justified in the action.  And there is a very funny scene toward the end involving Oliver (don't peek!) that makes it all worthwhile.  Ms. Brown manages to create delightful characters, humorous situations, and even somewhat likable killers, which makes for a very good book indeed.  Highly recommended. 

More on Cindy Brown's Books:                                                       

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