Hey, blog buddies. I have a new book out today!
The Case of the Floating Funeral is an old-fashioned murder-mystery at sea. Down below, I’ll tell you about the real life cruise that inspired it. But first, here’s a bit about the story:
Wealthy entrepreneur and famed gambler Morgan Picklewick is dead, and his family and friends are coming aboard the S.V. Adventurous Spirit for the memorial service at sea. As the ship heads to sunny South America, Morgan’s heirs will scatter his ashes in the deep blue waters of the Panama Canal. But not everything is as it seems. Morgan’s business partner and friend, Roberta Crowley, believes he was murdered by one of his children.
Did one of Morgan’s children kill their father to avoid being disinherited? As Ellie mingles with the mourners, it seems everyone is hiding a motive or two. Perhaps one of his wealthy business partners saw an opportunity to take a bigger piece of the pie? And what about his ex-wife? Is her diva-like behavior covering a guilty conscience? As Morgan’s heirs prepare to seize their father’s stake in the cruise line, with devastating consequences for the crew, Roberta gives Ellie her most difficult assignment yet: Identify Morgan’s killer before the crew is torn apart and scattered to the four winds, forever.
The Cruise that Started it All
The setting for The Case of the Floating Funeral is loosely based upon a South American cruise that P & I took during a pivotal moment in our lives. I’d just finished writing Death by Team Building, and we were wrapping up our travel sabbatical and preparing for our return to normal life. We’d just made a big decision too: we were going to open a little publishing business together. This would be my first time treating my writing like a career, and it would be the first time my husband and I had worked together since college.
Against that backdrop of new beginnings, we went to South America. And over the course of a few weeks, we admired the engineering marvel of the Panama Canal, hiked through a jungle in Columbia, and learned about archeological digs in Peru. Our tour guides showed us beautiful sights (and some ugly ones too) and educated us about the culture and history of the places they called home. One afternoon in Peru, in a seaside park full of colorful tile murals, a street vendor sold me some woven bracelets. Perhaps buoyed by the thrill of the sale, he turned to P and offered to sell him some drugs. Americans like drugs, the man insisted, as if this might clinch the sale.
We didn’t buy drugs, but I did pay five bucks to get my photo taken with a burro. When you’re playing tourist, you may as well go all the way, right?
We’d taken cruises before, but this particular voyage was brimming with larger-than-life characters. At breakfast, we were surrounded by big-haired Texas ladies talking shit about their husbands. At dinner, we listened to a orange-tinted philanderer brag about his fleet of yachts while his much-younger wife yawned and played with her expensive jewelry. At the bar, an old guy in white Velcro shoes and knee-high socks was talking someone’s ear off about Panama’s favorable tax laws. He had so much enthusiasm for the topic that it seemed he was trying to sell the other bar patrons something, but what? We ate dinner with a couple who had recently retired from the mortuary business. (I asked them if working in that industry had given them any insights about mortality and the human condition. They laughed and said no.) Later, there was a wacky toga party, kind of like a mosh pit for the retiree crowd, and I was mesmerized by the sight. After dinner, we listened to a karaoke singer that looked just like Willy Nelson. And I thought to myself, someday I’d like to write a cruise ship mystery.
After a trip like that, how could I not?
In a way, my cruise ship cozy mysteries are an homage to the places we’ve been lucky enough to visit. And that’s especially true for this most recent story. We didn’t uncover any murders on our South American vacation. (Thank goodness!) But we did write the business plan for Adventurous Ink during that trip (the name for our business came to me one night in our stateroom) and we met some wacky characters that would later inspire an entire series of mystery novels.
The truth is, I’ll always be fond of cruises. And although cruising is off limits right now (for very sensible reasons), I’ve enjoyed writing these books because they’ve been a chance to take a vacation in my mind. And I hope you enjoy Ellie’s adventures too.
Someday, I hope to pack a bag again and board one of the big beautiful ships headed to sunny ports of call. And until that day comes, thank goodness for books, right?