September 17, 2016

Book: Death On Tour by Janice Hamrick

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 10:44 am

imageSuch a curious title, sounds like an old age mystery of the type Agatha Christie would dream up.


One of a group of tourists, Millie Owens is found dead, in broad daylight, in the middle of a trip to Egypt, in open space. A mystery if ever there was one. She climbed onto a pyramid and fell to her death and no one noticed the event?


Jocelyn Shore, with her cousin Kyla is there and is puzzled as to how the elderly woman climbed up the pyramid and how, given the short height, she died when she fell.


Alan Stratton an attractive fellow traveller flirts with Jocelyn but oddly does not want to have his picture taken. Then there is a big description of the tour and everything they saw (the Sphinx) and did (camel rides). You get the feeling that you are reading someone’s boring travel experiences rather than a mystery that you wanted to read.


When an Egyptian carpet seller tries to get fresh with Jocelyn, Alan rescues her. When she reaches the van alone, she finds Millie’s bag still in the bus and cannot resist a peek. She discovers right away that Millie was a full blown kleptomaniac.


The story continues to feel like it was written on a tour of Egypt. I am not talking about authenticity here but the boring details on whether you need one more ticket to visit the most famous part of the museum and the carpet salesman and the sequence of things you do on an organized trip etc.


In Millie’s bag she finds a clue that may indicate that she found that someone else had a big secret (smuggling) in the group. When she hears that Millie was murdered (stab to the neck) she thinks she knows the motive for the murder right away.


When a second salesman mistakes her for being from Utah, she smells that something is wrong. Alan makes mysterious remarks about Kyla which puzzles Jocelyn more.


The story gets a lot weirder when Ben and Lydia pass off another girl as their niece who was sick. Jocelyn caught this subterfuge and wondered why. Alan displays a surprising fluency is Arabic when she least expected it. The plot thickens? It was very watery to start with, so you think that it could do with a lot more thickening.


When they thrust an expensive necklace in her hands in a tent and send her out, she naively decides to keep it and thinks of it “as a gift”. Come on, even a six year old thinks better than that!


In the meanwhile, she teams up with Yvonne, a fellow passenger who had been a criminal lawyer (somewhat modeled on Miss Marple of the Agatha Christie books) and try to do some detective work.


The developments are insipid. Think about this. You are mistaken for a lady from Utah repeatedly. An expensive looking necklace is thrust into your hand saying specifically “It costs thousands of pounds” and a group tries to blackmail you for “more money” and then back off when an old man comes and gives it in your hand saying  “the agreed price is OK”. You of course have no clue on what this is all about. What do you do? You simply “assume” that they wanted to give it to you free because they had “frightened you”. And keep it. When you are subsequently attacked and your purse searched (in the middle of a tourist throng no less), you do not link this to anything else (until a ‘great detective’ points that possibility to you). What is more, you decide to wear it in public at the next open party and dance. If you told me that you are also trying to be a detective to find out who murdered Millie and, later, an Arab vendor, my reaction would be to burst out laughing!

Jocelyn, the heroine of this story, is subsequently attacked and knocked unconscious when she ‘ventures out alone’ from that party (with the necklace on) and has her necklace stolen and seems to be surprised that this happened. You are now thinking ‘Does Jocelyn have a mental deficiency?’


Also the book feels like it started as a personal diary entry about an Egypt trip and then suddenly Janice decided, ‘why don’t we put a couple of murders in it and turn it into a mystery book?’. The problem with that approach? The whole story reads like personal notes with spice added  and is very annoying.


She learns of Alan’s true identity after a quarrel with him. (For once, it is not what you would expect). Then comes the climax where the real identity of the culprit or culprits is revealed. It is a twist in the classical sense. All ends well finally.


The end is nicely explained. But the toll it takes in the meanwhile reduces the interest in the book.




  • –  Krishna



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