Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Publisher: William Morrow 
Release Date: 2003 
ISBN:  0-380-97868-7
Format Reviewed: Hardback 
Buy it at Amazon
Read an Excerpt
Genre: Mystery / cozy 
Reviewed: 2003
Reviewer:   Mary Lynn 
Reviewer Notes: Reviewer Mary Lynn is the author of "Dear Cari."

Hocus Croakus
A Bed-and-Breakfast Mystery
By Mary Daheim 

     Amateur sleuths Judith McMonigle Flynn and her cousin, Serena Jones, accompanied by their husbands and mothers, set out for a vacation at a Native American casino hotel. In short order, Judith discovers the dead body of the headliner's assistant. Judith's husband, a retired policeman, is asked to assist the tribal police in the murder investigation. A few days later another murder occurs, this time the headliner's fiancée. To Judith's annoyance, Serena is too busy gambling to help her with the investigation of the murders, but she feels obligated to see justice done. As Judith begins asking questions, she is warned that if she doesn't mind her business she will be next. Of course she continues to ask questions.

     So the question is who are the killers?, since Judith and Serena decide that the circumstances dictate more than one person is involved. Is it the headliner, who is an illusionist? His overprotective sister? The rich woman in love with him? Or maybe it's his manager. Between trying to keep repairs to her bed and breakfast and her family cabin on track, Judith sets out to unmask the killers.

     Ms. Daheim has an appealing style, giving just enough history of the series main characters without overloading the reader with large clunks of back story that would tend to bore readers of the series. Setting the mystery at a casino hotel was a nice touch. There were several characters I found particularly appealing, such as the wise, ever- watchful doorman, the give-as-good-as-she-got waitress, and Judith's aunt Deb, who was a total delight. Still, my enjoyment of Hocus Croakus was dimmed by my inability to bond with Judith or Serena. For me, the appeal in a mystery series is the liability of the lead characters. I wasn't particularly taken with either of the cousins. Serena seemed obsessed with gambling, while Judith was overly proud of her ability to lie for a good cause.

      Although I like realism in mysteries, these characters are a little too flawed to make me a fan of this series. Nevertheless, the mystery itself was so well-crafted I was not prepared for the unveiling of the murder/s. Yet I didn't feel as if the author had cheated either. As very little was as it seemed this book, Hocus Croakus will delight mystery lovers who enjoy surprise endings. Such readers will come away well satisfied, marveling that they didn't see the ending coming.