In Basinski’s debut thriller, a murder aboard a cruise ship may not be so simple to solve for a retired Los Angeles Police Department lieutenant, especially when there’s no body.
Former cop Lt. Mario Morales, head of security on the Mardi Gras, is awakened by a guard who claims there’s been a murder. Robert Weigand, on his honeymoon, believes wife Linda is dead since he can’t find her anywhere. Morales doesn’t make much headway in his investigation before the ship docks in Miami, finding no evidence of foul play—or a corpse. But once the feds take over the case on land, they quickly name and arrest a suspect—the newlyweds’ boss, car dealer Joe Hugo, who bankrolled and joined the couple on their trip. Morales, however, thinks a Chinese businessman’s interest in the bankrupt cruise line Mariner may have played a part in the nefarious events onboard. The novel opens with an exquisite atmosphere: the Mardi Gras, now the site of a possible murder, floats still in the water, shrouded by fog. Scenes depicting the ship’s innately claustrophobic setting are terrific but disappointingly few, since the vessel reaches shore well before the story’s over. Nevertheless, Basinski takes the time to develop characters introduced during the cruise: Sun Li, an enigmatic woman who knows about Linda’s murder before other passengers, and attorney Bud Gorley, who never even boards the Mardi Gras and first appears in flashback. Mysteries surrounding these characters all come to light as Morales sets out to prove Joe’s innocence. Morales is a likable protagonist, a levelheaded man who considers every possibility. Unfortunately, he’s a bit lacking as an investigator. A few significant things he does in Miami, such as peruse the ship’s surveillance tapes, he could have just as easily done onboard. But he does ask endless questions—a sure sign that the steely man won’t stop until he finds a solution.
A modest but effective thriller with a protagonist who has the potential for his own series.