From the publisher—
It’s 1926. The West Coast Development Company is staging its biggest land deal in Homosassa, Florida, selling pieces of a planned city to speculators who dream of a tropical paradise. Army nurse Cornelia Pettijohn takes leave to travel to Florida with her ancient uncle, who claims that he wants a warm winter home. When their car breaks down, they take the local train, The Mullet Express, into Homosassa. By the time they arrive, though, a passenger has been poisoned. A second murder victim boards the train later, iced down with the fish. Uncle Percival’s hidden agenda makes him the sheriff’s prime suspect. Cornelia and Teddy Lawless, a twenty-year-old flapper in a body pushing sixty, must chase mobsters and corner suspects to dig her uncle out of the hole he’s dug for himself.
“…two old crows and one old coot…”
Those few words on the first page of this book told me I was most likely going to enjoy Murder on the Mullet Express and, indeed, I did. Cornelia, Teddy and Uncle Percival are such charming characters and I truly enjoyed spending time with them.
Generally speaking, worldbuilding is not as critical to mystery fiction as it is to speculative fiction, largely because most mysteries are set in a world we can relate to. It becomes more important in historical settings, as I’m sure you’ll understand, and Ms. Mayo and Ms. Glenn really do a nice job with their worldbuilding. Without cramming anything down the reader’s throat, they introduce elements common in the 1920’s such as the falling numbers of whooping cranes, the 1918 Spanish Flu, the lingering effects of mustard gas, racism, the KKK, Prohibition, and chain gangs. Those little touches, some of which are part and parcel of the story, pulled me right in and gave me a better understanding of what life was like then.
As for characterization, I found myself seeing the humor and strong personality of the elderly Percival but also the courage and determination of the women who served as nurses in World War I. Those qualities have carried over into their post-war lives and getting involved with death and ensuing investigations really does work here. In fact, although this has been labeled as a cozy, I think it leans more towards the traditional mystery category. Yes, they are amateur sleuths, but the locale is not a hometown and the players are not well-known to each other, both elements common to cozies.
There’s a kind of dry humor here, which I found refreshing, and a lively plot with mobsters, flappers, socialites and all sorts of folks. To wrap things up, Murder on the Mullet Express is a most enjoyable and auspicious beginning to what I anticipate will be a long-running series and I’m hoping the next book will be out before too long.
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2017.