Like chocolate and peanut-butter, cozy mysteries bring comfort and puzzlement together with satisfying taste. You may think that’s a stretch. But it’s what I’m thinking since I’ve read another book by author-in-the-city Cheri Baker. Read on for my 99.9% spoiler-free review of The Case of the Karaoke Killer.
Overview And Backstory
Having just finished my 5th cozy mystery by Baker, I can say this: the author keeps changing things up! You’d think she would settle into a formulaic pattern, especially within a single series of cozies. But no. She keeps you guessing about more than just whodunnit!
That’s what I’ve come to really like about Cheri’s sleuth stories. As you start reading, you wonder when the murder will take place? It varies every time. It could be at the very beginning, or half-way through the book. It could even be elsewhere – much to your surprise!
The author provides distraction, diversion, or misdirection to keep you guessing as to whodunnit. I’ve come to enjoy keeping my eyes peeled for clues!
Like the main character, Ellie Tappet, I took notes, jotting down hints. In one chapter, I suspected Jerome. The next chapter, I was eyeballin’ Tristan. Next, no wait, it could be Kate. Or Brooke. Maybe…it could be Violet!? Or how about that other guy, Victor?
You see, this is a good mystery.
Something I appreciate about good writing is a golden simile or metaphor. These simple literary devices can pack a punch.
While reading The Case of the Karaoke Killer, I highlighted some similes Baker wrote because they stood out to me. Here are some of my faves:
“A breeze brushed along Ellie’s legs like a cat asking to be stroked.”
“His thick black eyebrows drew together like thunderclouds.”
“…the cruise director’s green eyes were a tempest of worry.”
As Ellie Tappet’s character-arc has developed, I’ve come to appreciate one of her strong traits. She’s got a lot of wisdomand knows just when to share it with others.
This matters because there’s a number of characters surrounding Ellie; they all need some insight to help them along their way. Ellie cares enough to do that.
This strength offsets her weaknesses that play into the story. At the very beginning, the conflict set-up brings uncertainty to Ellie. She must deal with doubt. How she handles it affects the plot. Other uncertainties appear. But Ellie is always certain about showing care to others.
At other times, Ellie must make choices to either listen to her head or her gut. When she consistently goes with her gut, it’s for the better. Yet the circumstances she’s involved in allow Ellie to struggle with the balance between head and heart. It’s realistic and makes Ellie a more believable character.
If you haven’t read book one, The Case of the Missing Finger, that’s okay. You can read book two as your first. But please do yourself a favor; don’t skip book one. Many of the supporting characters aboard the cruise ship return in book two. Relationships started in book one grow.
The new characters in book two impressed me; I connected with them more than I expected. The young 20-somethings were fun to read. Although they had minor traces of stereotype, they were varied and deep enough in thoughts or emotions to make them relatable. They’re neither cookie-cutter nor caricatures.
One person, Officer Gumbs, is a nice anchor. His role is simple and solid in book one and two. This makes him predictable. It brings balance in contrast to the questionable people. While passengers are flaky, tossed by waves of emotion, Officer Gumbs is a rock.
Plot, Scenes, And Dialogue
There was a funny and unexpected scene involving Ellie and some alcohol – she is decidedly out-of-character! It’s a well done change in the story. It also serves to foreshadow (and distract?) a key plot device later on. This is good plotting and writing. I think this scene kills two birds with one stone.
Also present were a few small plot twists along the way. Nothing major, but enough to keep things interesting.
The dialogue is simple, perfectly fitting the genre.
The Ending And Closure
Baker delivers an acceptable mystery reveal. It didn’t surprise me too much; the criminal was one of many I briefly suspected. And the motive was believable. It was nice to have the little puzzle pieces of the story fit together here.
But book two shines in the closure. I think it’s the best one out of the 5 cozy mysteries I’ve read by the author so far! It was emotional. Sadness, happiness, surprise, hope – it was all there! Excellent.
I hope you’ll read Cheri Baker’s cruise ship cozy mysteries. You could do far worse with your time, like reading a social media feed. Don’t do that to yourself. Read a good book instead!
For the price of a Starbucks coffee, you can buy The Case of the Karaoke Killer. And If you have kindle Unlimited, you can just download and start reading this book!
Goodreads rating: 4 stars