By Bruce Alan Jensen
It’s murder on a wine train tour in California. Hank Carson, retired police investigator, becomes involved in who killed the restaurant critic nobody liked. Add to that, a burgeoning romance between Hank and the lead investigator.
Good plot, however, the mystery almost took a caboose to the romance angle and the fact Hank, main character, didn’t have a lot to do with solving the mystery.
Henry ‘Hank’ Carson: former police investigator, 6’, smokes cigars, owns a black Lab, drives a motor home, freelance writer, divorced with daughter
Alicia Tomlinson: Agent for the State Bureau of Investigations, hazel eyes, 5’6” 30s, freckles
Charles Beaumont: wine train promoter, 5’11”, tinning white hair, husky, beard
Kevin Stafford: train chief of security, 50s, 6’, overweight
And there were a lot of other characters. This is a minor problem and I’ll put this here but it also goes in the writing category. For the first fifty pages there were a lot of characters introduced. Many of these were riders on the train and most of them were eliminated. This, to me, didn’t work because there were a lot of names thrown out and characters that were ‘thrown out’ because they were dismissed as suspects. By the time the list was narrowed, I had lost track (no pun intended), of the reasons for their being suspects.
Otherwise, I liked Hank and Alicia although Hank spends way too much time in this short story fantasizing about Alicia when, I thought, he should have been solving the case.
Okay. Conversations stayed on track (again not a pun here). Whether they dealt with the case or background info or emotions shared, conversations stayed succinct. However, there were capitalization errors on tag lines - “I went to the store,” She said. (Not an actual line, but an example of the error.
Profanity but just a little.
This was a shorter book so I expected the book to revolve around the case. You stick with the case, giving red herrings and clues and talking to suspects. Now, I’m not here to tell the author how to write a story. I will give my opinion on whether the way he/she writes it works for me. This book didn’t work.
- Hank, though the main character, wasn’t really directly involved in solving the case
- Hank spent way too much time on the road traveling-away from the case-playing with the dog and dreaming about Alicia
- There was a side incident of some gun play on one of Hank’s road trips that had nothing to do with the main plot and I didn’t see the point of it.
- There was a lot of filler stuff that had nothing to do with the mystery.
Now, as to this last point, I realize that part of the book was a developing relationship between Hank and Alicia, but again, this is a shorter book, and things need to keep moving. As mentioned, I felt the murder took second billing to everything else.
This wasn’t an action-packed story, though there were spurts of action here and there. The revelation of the solution was not a “A’ha!” moment and the ending wind down was, again, unimportant, especially the part with his daughter, because she was mentioned briefly and never shown until the end.
I thought about green for while but decided to drop it to: