Beware all mystery writers. Marie Moore has now joined your genre with her well-told tale, Shore Excursion. This cleverly written mystery with its elaborate attention to detail will catch your imagination within a few pages. It might make you a bit leery about taking your next trip on a cruise ship, especially near Scandinavia and Russia.
Miss Marsh is an experienced travel agent who has planned to cruise the North Sea with a group of elderly individuals that call themselves the High Steppers. Having finished initial preparations to leave with them from New York, she starts for her apartment on a weary afternoon with a “creepy-crawly feeling” that someone, possibly a “homeless man,” is following her.
Next, we find her and the High Steppers in London where their bus’ luggage compartment is sideswiped and dented by a box truck. All agree that the incident seemed more careless than not, maybe even a deliberate hit. After a short delay to check the integrity of High Steppers’ belongings, the elderly group sets sail on the Rapture. This huge vessel carries 2,366 passengers.
In the dead of night, Miss Marsh clearly hears the door handle to her cabin creak and turn, not once, but twice. Thankfully, the inside lock was engaged, but Marsh spends most of that night awake. Next morning, a High Stepper is found dead; the sleeves of her new pink robe are tied tightly around her neck. Peculiarly, a creepy Doctor Sledge tells Marsh that she “died of strangulation, my dear. Not that she was necessarily murdered” (45). This weird comment drives Marsh to investigate the incident the best she can. She begins to questions ship personnel.
But the captain forbids her to question anyone. In fact, she must remain silent about the murder because it would ruin the cruise for all passengers. Now, truly befuddled, she trusts no one. Her uncanny feeling of being followed and/or watched obsesses her thoughts. Sitting alone outside by the library, without warning, the door slams shut. She jumps to open the door only to find an empty corridor.
A few worried days later, the captain escorts Marsh to the ships freezer compartment. Another High Stepper “lay naked … frozen solid, a plastic trash bag knotted around his throat” (85). The captain begins to question Marsh. And again, he pressures her to say nothing to panic his passengers because an undercover team will board the ship to investigate. Yet, she receives a dire warning from another woman: “There is grave danger here” (117). Fear seizes Marsh, not just for herself, but for the High Steppers she organized and brought aboard.
The paragraphs above are to give enough exciting information that any lover of mysteries will want to read Shore Excursion. What brutal attacker lurks about this giant vessel to kill two aged High Steppers — what’s even more puzzling, why? Is the handsome captain himself involved or is he genuinely worried about Marsh’s life? One cannot help but wonder if Miss Marsh’s feeling of being followed before she left the U.S. is part of this same mystery — and then there is the mysterious bus incident in London …
I would highly recommend this suspenseful mystery to readers looking for a well-written who-done-it. Author Moore’s characters are colorfully painted. Her portrayals of the High Steppers make them deserving of that name. Settings are realistic enough to make the reader live aboard the Rapture Cruise Ship. It is hard to believe that Shore Excursion is Marie Moore’s first mystery. Read this eerie tale. Like me, you will surely anticipate her next one.