- Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
Thinking about a nice trip on a gigantic cruise ship, despite the recent spate of disasters? You might want to read Donald Thompson’s “Charley’s Cruise” (Whiskey Creek Press, 365 pages $18.95 trade paperback, also available in eBook editions) first and then decide if you want to join 2,000 or so perfect (or imperfect) strangers you can’t escape from — except when you reach one of the cruise line’s ports of call.
Charley Adams and his wife Mel are presented with a free Caribbean cruise on Paradise Cruise Line’s flagship Nirvana after Charley is injured in the line of duty at his job as director of security for an exclusive, gated community on a Florida barrier island. The offending weapon wasn’t a firearm — it was the golf club of a Catholic priest slamming a wildly out of control tee shot into Charley’s left kneecap as he was on a beer run for a charity golf event at the development’s course. A 16-year veteran of the NYPD, Charley retired from the force, accepting the security chief’s post like many New Yorkers wanting to escape the big city for a life of fun and sun in Florida.
Charley’s and Mel’s dream vacation turns serious when passenger Sen. Chase Talbot dies in what could be an accidental fall from the verandah of his luxury cabin. The Nirvana’s security chief, Mike O’Brien, enlists Charley and Mel into a team that investigates the accident — or murder — befalling the womanizing, liquor-loving politician. The book was written before the Costa Concordia cruise ship, captained by an Italian, Francesco Schettino, ran a ground last January off the Italian island of Giglio. Schettino has been accused of manslaughter by prosecutors after he left the ship before all passengers were evacuated.
(From Canada’s National Post newspaper, March 22 edition: ROME — Three more bodies have been found on the half-submerged wreck of the Costa Concordia cruise liner, bringing the confirmed number of dead to 28, a spokeswoman for Italy’s Civil Protection agency said on Thursday.
The giant vessel capsized off the Tuscan island of Giglio after hitting rocks on Jan. 13. Four people are still unaccounted for.
Prosecutors have accused captain Francesco Schettino of causing the accident by bringing the multi-storey Costa Concordia, which was carrying more than 4,200 passengers and crew, too close to the shore in order to perform a display manoeuvre known as a “salute.”
As well as the official investigation, Costa and its parent company Carnival Corp, the world’s largest cruise operator, face a wave of civil suits from the victims’ families and from passengers and crewmembers aboard the ship.)
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Fortunately for the passengers of the Nirvana, the liner’s Italian captain, Luciano Fiori, appears to be a dedicated man who wants to do the best by his passengers and crew — as well as preserve his job — so he enthusiastically endorses the plan by his security chief to probe the death of the senator.
The plot thickens as several members of the crew and passengers are brought into focus as persons of interest in the investigation. Joining the investigation is the ship’s physician, Dr. Harold Graham, a forensic doctor; and a man from Charley’s past, FBI Agent George “Bulldog” Drummond. (Thompson, as his website reveals, is an expert on fictional detectives of the past. In addition to “Bulldog” Drummond, one of the passengers is a television producer named Philip Marlowe). Doc, as everybody calls Graham, is also a devotee of detective fiction, as well as movies of the past. A particular favorite of his is the 1941 Michael Curtiz helmed film, “The Sea Wolf” based on the Jack London novel and starring Edward G. Robinson, John Garfield and Ida Lupino.
“Charley’s Cruise” is the first book of a trilogy involving Charley and Mel Adams. (Written and yet to be published are “Charley’s War” and “Charley’s Tenure.”). I found “Charley’s Cruise” to be a well-crafted page turner, falling into the locked-room mystery category. It’s also a crash course (pun intended) on the operations of a cruise ship.
About the Author (from his website, email@example.com)
” I started my formal education in England giving me a leg up when my parents finally settled down on Long Island, farther and farther away from New York City. It also made me a little lazy until the University of Pennsylvania convinced me that class attendance did count.
“After a tour of duty with the National Security Agency, I earned my master’s degree at San Francisco State University, and then was probably educated beyond my intellect, graduating with a doctorate in several fields from the University of California at Berkeley. It was there I developed my interest in creative writing, then choosing a career in university teaching resulting in five books and many, many articles. I eventually combined that career with high-level academic administration and management consulting.
“As a consultant, I helped establish the MysteryNet website. This involved analyzing thousands of in-depth online questionnaires from site subscribers, including their reactions to weekly “Solve-it” mysteries. I contributed several such stories along with a group of writers while learning the do’s and don’ts of creating true mysteries in a thousand words.
” Approaching retirement, I was part-owner of a television station where I was concerned with everything from the evening news to commercials and the scripts for contract films, while hosting over two hundred live and taped features.
” Now retired for good, I am following through on my interest in creative writing with three novels in the Charley and Mel series. Charley’s Cruise is the first one published, with Charley’s War and Charley’s Tenure complete and to follow.
“In my writing I try to keep in mind something I learned years ago in a Berkeley seminar hosted by the Polish-born novelist, Isaac Bashevis Singer, who received a Nobel prize in literature. When handed a written question to rank several attributes needed to write marketable fiction, with a twinkle in his eye the silver-haired gentleman crumpled up the paper and good-naturedly tossed it to the floor, replying: “When I sit down at my typewriter I have but a single thought in mind—tell a good story.” And, that’s what I try to do—tell a good story.”
Publisher’s website: whiskeycreekpress.com