Derailed Plot: A Travel Tragedy Mystery
by Summer Campbell
I picked this one up for the r/CozyMystery Discord book club read for April. And, as a chronic procrastinator, I waited until the last days of April to read and review it. That’s how I roll.
In a nutshell, Astrid runs off from the home she shares with her doctor husband after catching him in bed with one of her colleagues. She joins up with her friend Sam, a photographer who is working on a coffee table book of hidden tourist gems in Europe and the last chapter involves taking a week long Orient Express style train trip along the coast of Spain. The morning after boarding, Astrid and her friends discover a murdered man, become suspects and must work fast to find a murderer.
While there were a few things I had issues with (which I’ll get to next) overall I thought this was a cute and charming book. I liked Astrid and Sam, I thought they were likable and if the series goes further, I’d be interested in seeing them progress and have more dimension to them. I loved the location porn, from the small Spanish town of San Sebastian to the views from the train as it wound its way across Spain and Portugal. Enviable, where can I sign up?
But there were issues that I chalk up to a writer with a lot of good ideas, but without a lot of writing experience. And that’s fine, everyone has to start somewhere. The main issues I had is that the MC, Astrid, didn’t sound like a woman who has experience as a jet setting career woman, she sounded much younger, like early 20s younger. Astrid is also from England and yet the tone of the book sounded very American. And that’s fine, because I’d be more annoyed if the tone stayed the same and the author just sprinkled a few Britishisms like “Quite right!” or “I’ll just have a spot of tea” as if mentioning tea is enough to make a book sound more British. I’m not sure about where the author is from (not that it matters) but if she is English, I’d expect it to sound more English-y (Yes, I said English-y, you know what I mean) The plot was also simple and formulaic, and I think if some things were researched a bit further and the book edited to tighten up the plot, this would be a 5 star book. An example, after they found the body of the victim, the train’s security chief told Astrid and her friends to “go back to one suite until they could be questioned” and although I’m not in law enforcement or the legal profession, my thought is that if they were, in fact, legitimate suspects, they wouldn’t be left unaccompanied to wander back to their suite and hang around cooking up a story and hiding evidence. Then again, perhaps that was a clue? Hmmmm. Now I’m rethinking that assessment.
Overall, I’ll give this one 3 1/2 stars because I did enjoy it, at around 150 page, it was perfect for an evening read and despite the issues, I will probably pick up other books in the series, particularly if the writing and the characters progress.
Published February 28th 2021