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By Mary Daheim
William Morrow, 2010 ($23.99)
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
Bed and breakfast owner Judith Flynn is used to quirky guests, but Wee Willie Weevel, an over-the-hill entertainer and dare devil, is one of the quirkiest. First, he jumps from the second story window of her home, claiming her husband Joe had dared him to do so. After telling him in no uncertain terms not to take such a risk again, she is astounded to see him flinging himself off the roof of her home. A gust of wind blows him away from the soft landing he'd planned, and he ends up scratched, broken and bruised. The Flynns send him and his flame-haired companion Pepper packing, hoping never to see or hear from them again.
Shortly after they depart, Judith's son Mike, his snippy, perfectionist wife, and their young sons show up, ready to take part in the local Halloween extravaganza and excited about getting to meet Mike's childhood hero. Nobody had told Judith about the visit, and for some reason she tries not to let Mike and his family know that she and her cousin Rennie have a train to catch. Despite her decision to stay with the family as long as she can, and a mix up on Rennie's part about the time change, the ladies get to the station just in time to board the Empire Builder for what is supposed to be a relaxing cross-country train ride.
Her cousin and partner in crime-solving, Rennie, hates to fly, but she does enjoy trains. Her husband has to fly to Boston on business, and his company has provided two first-class plane tickets. Rennie talks Judith into joining her on the train. Judith isn't crazy about the idea, but when Joe has to travel to Boston as well, she agrees. Joe will take the other plane ticket, and the two couples will all meet up in Boston. Like all of their best-laid plans, things soon go array. Judith spots her nemesis, the supposedly badly-injured Wee Willie, and his entourage boarding the same train. He's in a wheelchair, and tells other passengers that he'd been thrown off a roof and was filing a lawsuit against the crazy lady who caused his injuries. Judith and Rennie take great pains to avoid him.
Of course you can't take Judith anywhere without some kind of crisis. First, their attendant disappears, and then the bodies start showing up. The train's progress is slowed by the weather and by an accident. Communication is iffy at best, and it's unclear which town or county has legal jurisdiction. Judith, at Rennie's urging, uses her sleuthing skills to help solve the crimes, and ends up going from detective to suspect and back again.
This is the 25th in Daheim's Bed and Breakfast Mystery series. She tends to go a little over the top in this series, having her characters, especially Rennie, and Judith's mother, do or say ridiculous things, but that is not the case in LOCO MOTIVE. This is my favorite in the series. I especially enjoyed going along for the ride, which has elements of Strangers on a Train, Murder on the Orient Express, and the Three Stooges.
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