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    Review of MURDER ON THE CARONIA by Conrad Allen


    St. Martin's Minotaur, February 2003

    In the glory days of the Atlantic steamships in the early 20th century, the ultra-wealthy mix with criminals in the first class section of the great ships. The Cunard line has hired detectives Genevieve Masefield and George Porter to work their ships--this time the beautiful Caronia. In general, crime on the ships is limited to pick-pockets and drunken fights in the lower class sections. On this voyage, however, the purser suspects drug smuggling, and Scotland Yard policemen are escourting home a couple accused of murdering the man's wife and fleeing to the new world. Somehow, Genevieve and George must get to the bottom of all of the mysteries, while keeping their identities a secret and blending with the mogels who make up the aristocracy of the new world of capitalism.

    Author Conrad Allen (see more reviews of mysteries by Allen) is convincing in his descriptions of these great steamships, providing enough historical detail to fascinate while not overwhelming the story itself. As always, Genevieve finds herself the target of unwanted attention, this time by a young professional bicyclist (perhaps the Lance Armstrong of his day), who had lived for nothing but his training, but can now think of nothing but Genevieve. When one of the Scotland Yard policemen is killed, both Genevieve and George have more important things to worry about than an unwanted attraction--once again, there has been a murder on the ship on which they travel. Unless they can find the killer, their careers as ship detectives will be over.

    MURDER ON THE CARONIA is a pleasant read with entertaining, although sometimes flat, characters. The drug smuggling plot seemed to be undone by relative stupidity on the part of the smugglers rather than by any intelligence on the part of the detectives, but perhaps this is to be expected by smugglers (and would anyone really be smuggling drugs from America to Europe in this era? If anyone knows, tell me). Allen's smooth writing and the fascinating environment of early 20th century steamships kept me turning the pages.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 3/11/03

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