BWW Review: OLIVER TWISTED by Cindy Brown
Just in time for your summer reading list comes OLIVER TWISTED, the perfect book to toss in your beach bag alongside your suntan lotion and shades. Cindy Brown's newest follows closely on the heels of her previous Ivy Meadows Mysteries, MACDEATH and THE SOUND OF MURDER. The series follow the adventures of actress turned sleuth Olive Zweigart, who adopts the stage name Ivy Meadows, little knowing it will also be helpful in her part-time job working as a PI for her Uncle Bob. Each of Brown's books is humorously themed around a popular play or musical, so they are perfect for theatre-lovers and mystery aficionados alike.
OLIVER TWISTED finds our limelight Nancy Drew aboard a Charles Dickens-themed cruise on the S.S. David Copperfield to investigate a series of thefts. Imagine a young Jessica Fletcher on a very special episode of "The Love Boat." While at sea, Ivy naturally keeps company with pickpockets, thieves, and murderers - both on deck and below. She's been hired to play Nancy in "Oliver at Sea!," a sickly slick musical satire which features such tunes as "Consider Yourself Onboard," "As Long as He Feeds Me" and "Where is Food?"
"Whe-eh-eh-eh-eh-ere is food?
Are the pork chops any good? Should I drink my tea?
Or maybe see, if coffee's freshly brewed?"
Brown knows that the main attraction of any cruise is gastronomic, so she sets much of the action in nautical dining establishments with such names as The Food Glorious Food Cafe, The Best of Days Wurst of Days Sausage Bar, and Boz's Buffet. When Ivy's not wining and dining incognito, she's rehearsing in the ship's Royal Victoria Theatre, where she discovers that her role as 'tart with a heart' Nancy also requires her to perform a dangerous aerial silk act. As if that isn't enough, she is also cast in Fagin's Magic Handkerchief, a cheesy shipboard magic show. After all, what cruise would be complete without a second rate magic act? As the S.S. David Copperfield steams toward Hawaii, Ivy's investigation turns from theft to possible murder by poison, with an orphan slavery racket thrown in for good measure.
If you think Brown hasn't done her research, you'd be (dead) wrong. She smartly skewers the theme cruise experience without ever being mean-spirited - perfectly in keeping with the series' tongue-in-cheek tone. She also knows her Dickens, with clever references to everything from Miss Havisham to Little Dorrit. Brown even takes the bold step of heading each of her 66 breezy chapters with an appropriate quote directly from the original novel. For true Dickens fans, theatre lovers, and mystery buffs everywhere, it is indeed the best of times. Please sir, I want some more!
Addendum: I've just heard that Brown's next Ivy Meadows Mystery will have an ANNIE GET YOUR GUN theme. Who will buy? Me!
OLIVER TWISTED by Cindy Brown is published by Henery Press www.henerypress.com and available from June 21st at Amazon.com.
Michael T. Mooney is a long-time Dickens fan and theatre-lover. His first stage role was as Mr. Bumble in a middle school version of OLIVER TWIST. He went on to play Mr. Sowerberry in the musical OLIVER! He is the author of an original adaptation of A CHRISTMAS CAROL and has acted and/or directed in CAROLS in New York City, New Jersey, and Central Florida, including appearing as the Ghost of Christmas Present in the 1991 Citrus Bowl Parade. He has been on ten cruises.