Shore Excursion by Marie Moore is the first book in the new “Sidney Marsh” mystery series. Publisher: Camel Press, April 2012

Travel agents are a vanishing breed, but Sidney Marsh, a New York transplant from Mississippi, is holding her ground—at least on land. She is the tour leader on a cruise through Scandinavia for a group of eccentric senior citizens who call themselves the High Steppers. Sidney expects her days to be filled with long meals, shopping expeditions and visits to museums, churches and fjords. But this cruise is anything but routine. There is a killer on board, targeting the High Steppers and quite possibly herself.

After the first suspicious death, the captain and his crew are grimly determined to carry on as usual. Disgusted with their inaction, Sidney decides to take matters into her own hands and launch her own investigation. She enlists the halfhearted help of her friend and business partner, the flamboyant and fun-loving Jay Wilson.

Suspects abound. What about those two handsome young men who stay mysteriously aloof? One of them has his eye on Sidney. So does another passenger, far too charming and again too young to fit the “High Stepper” mold. Then there’s Captain Vargos, the arrogant ladies’ man whose plans to thwart Sidney’s investigation might include seduction. Who is that crew member shadowing Sidney? Is the theater really haunted? Even the High Steppers themselves are not as predictable or harmless as they seem. The closer Sydney gets to the truth, the less she understands.

A European cruise turns into more than Sidney expected when one of her group member is found dead and she is puzzled by the authorities’ action. Investigating on her own, Sidney uncovers clues that may put her and her group in harm’s way. With a well-developed plot, a determined heroine, a great supporting cast and the perfect setting for murder, this was a good read. The author did a good job in keeping me guessing with the many twists and turns in this whodunit and I was doubly surprised with the revelation of the killer’s identity. I like the characters and the tone of the story and I hope there are more adventures with Sidney in this enjoyable debut series.

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