Janice Hamrick’s Death on Tour not only won the Mystery Writers of America’s/Minotaur Books First Crime Novel Award, but it is also one of this year’s nominees for the Simon & Schuster Mary Higgins Clark Award. And, this debut novel deserves to be one of the nominees. Hamrick’s story is an excellent traditional mystery that combines a shrewd amateur sleuth and a fascinating setting, Egypt.
Who is any better at observing human nature than an intelligent high school teacher? Jocelyn Shore is the narrator, a history teacher on her dream tour, a once-in-a-lifetime guided tour of Egypt, joined by her cousin, Kyra. It’s shocking when Millie Owens, one of their fellow tourists, falls to her death at the base of a pyramid, but no one is grieving about the loss of the “old bat,” the pushy snoop on the trip. Jocelyn finds something odd about it, so she’s not surprised to learn from another member of their group, Alan Stratton, that Millie was murdered. And, she’s even less surprised when she finds Millie’s bag, filled with stolen items from her fellow travelers, and a notebook with her nasty observations about each of them.
Jocelyn begins to suspect there is a problem with the group, something that caused Millie’s death. And, despite her attraction to Alan, he’s as mysterious as several other fellow tourists. As Kyra and Jocelyn squabble over Alan’s attention, he seems just as interested in their actions. Why do vendors pick out the two cousins, calling them sisters from Utah? Another death just adds to Jocelyn’s suspicions that someone on their trip is up to no good.
Jocelyn Shore is a terrific amateur sleuth. She’s observant, understands human behavior. At the same time, she’s not stuffy, and not perfect. She and her cousin, Kyra, are competitive, and, at times, taunt and tease each other. She compares herself unfavorably to Kyra. And, she fights her attraction to Alan Stratton, the mystery man, who seems as suspicious of her as she is of him.
For those of us who enjoy armchair travel, Hamrick includes the itinerary for the WorldPal tour of Egypt, and she goes into detail as to the various sites on the trip. Her descriptions of the historic sites are wonderful. She also manages to capture the flavor of a tour group, with its varying personalities, perfectly.
Joyce Hamrick’s book has wonderful descriptions, a likable amateur sleuth, a little romance, and a mystery. Death on Tour is a delightful debut.
Janice Hamrick’s website is www.janicehamrick.com.
Death on Tour by Janice Hamrick. Minotaur Books. ©2011. ISBN 9780312679460 (hardcover), 310p.
FTC Full Disclosure – The publisher sent me a copy of this, hoping I would review it.