Looks like stormy seas ahead for the hapless congregants of Temple Rita who’ve boarded the Bargain II for a cut-rate cruise to St. Thomas. Since her Ecumenical Diet Seder failed to rake in the shekels, Essie Sue Margolis, intent on raising funds to erect a 5,000-pound marble likeness of her late sister, Marla, on the grounds of the Eternal, Texas, synagogue, has roped her fellow worshippers into the cruise from hell. Even Ruby Rothman, the usually skeptical widow of the former rabbi, is on board, encouraged by her business partner Milt Aboud, who’s recommended a little R&R for Ruby (Never Nosh a Matzo Ball, 2000, etc.). What could it hurt? Well, it could hurt her feet, since the cruise’s lecturer, Professor Willie Bob Gonzales, falls on them when he keels over dead just before embarking. It could hurt her back, when the Bargain II’s lecherous skipper Horatio Goldberg makes a grab for her during a private tour of the captain’s quarters. It could hurt her head, because somebody knocks her cold as she tries to photograph the interior of the closed-for-renovations synagogue on Charlotte Amalie. But most important, it could break her heart if it turns out that her shipboard sweetie, handsome reporter Ed Levenger, is actually a cold-blooded killer.
Although the mystery’s solution is perfunctory (the main clue is never completely explained), Kahn’s attention to every outrageous detail—from the pink-on-pink ballroom to the rainbow tacos filled with sardine and frankfurter—makes this a voyage to remember.