An audience participation stunt at a mystery writers’ convention leads unsurprisingly to murder.
Although she didn’t know it at the time, it turns out that coffeehouse owner Maggy Thorsen had excellent reason to badger her boyfriend, Brookhills County Sheriff Jake Pavlik, into bringing her along to Fort Lauderdale for Mystery 101. Conference organizer Zoe Scarlett, obviously an old friend of Jake’s, looks about ready to eat her keynote speaker alive—which is more dinner than Maggy gets. Playing her own version of “I Shagged the Sheriff” leaves her with no time to dine before boarding the train for the convention’s signature “Murder on the Orient Espresso” event: a three-hour slog through the Everglades during which conference attendees re-enact the Christie classic. Since funds are limited, the organizers offer no meal but copious booze, along with the obligatory corpse-shaped cake. When the cake knife goes missing, Maggy worries. When Larry Potter, author of scathing reviews on his website PotShots, also goes missing, even Pavlik and Zoe start to worry. It isn’t until eccentric engineer Theodore B. Hertel Jr. points out that a torrential downpour has washed out the tracks beneath the train that the rest of the guests, happily sozzled on the excursion’s only culinary offering, begin to worry. But Potter’s estranged wife, Audra Edmonds, his reputed lover, Rosemary Darlington, his germaphobic agent, Carson, and even assistant conference organizer Missy Hudson can do little to help, leaving Maggy and her sweetie to solve the crime.
Maggy’s eighth (Triple Shot, 2011, etc.) moves slower than Hertel’s locomotive, proving that not even a South Florida setting guarantees sunny days.