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Today is Father’s Day, plus I just finished Kassandra Lamb’s new cozy mystery, Missing on Maui about the scary events surrounding series protagonist Kate Huntington and her niece’s wedding. In honor of that combo, I was thinking about my father and my own scary wedding.

Scary weddings

My father had ten children. Eight of them daughters. As we grew, he frequently mentioned his willingness to supply ladders to any sisters who would consider eloping. But I’d seen his ladders, usually balanced on top of the picnic table as he attempted some second-floor repair job. One cooperative sister did elope (sans ladders), but I was the first to commit an actual wedding. Not wanting to give my parents too much time to obsess worry think about the event, I told them we’d be getting married in less than a month at City Hall. My father went into the garage to “work on the car” and told us to let him know when it was time to come out for the wedding. My Hub-to-be went into his room to finish his dissertation and told us it had to be done before the wedding. My mother just shook her head.

I made a list of each person’s tasks in the 3½ remaining weeks.

  • ME: 1. Choose wedding dress for mother to veto. 2. Be on time for the ceremony.
  • HUB-TO-BE: 1. Finish dissertation so he’ll have a job. 2. Be on time for the ceremony. 3. Borrow a tie from my father. Actually wear it.
  • MY MOTHER: 1. Type his dissertation so he’ll have a job. 2. Bake wedding cake, grow flowers, cook all the food, send out the invitations, find the minister, arrange the ceremony which everyone knows will only occur at City Hall over her cold, dead corpse, decorate the house and yard, reserve hotel rooms for his family, plan and host reception. 3. View the (short, pink, retro) wedding dress I got at that perfectly nice thrift shop, cry, take my younger sister out to try on wedding dresses, buy another dress, make a veil.
  • MY FATHER: 1. Fix the car even if it’s not broken. 2. Worry. 3. Cry at ceremony.

My father pretended to be fixing the car until a few days before the wedding. He had to come out from under the car to pick up my uncle, an Air Force chaplain and the only one who would agree to marry us on such short notice. They returned to find the entire household proof-reading the dissertation.

Smilebox_191495658Uncle: “Let’s discuss the sanctity of holy matrimony. Shouldn’t that comma on page 74 be a period?”

Husband-to-Be: “If this dissertation isn’t finished, I’m not getting married.”

Me: “Sob!”

My Father: “If anyone needs me, I’ll be under the car.”

My uncle’s sermon at the ceremony the next day was, “Marriage is like a dissertation.

My father cried. (Probably at the thought of my six younger, as-yet-unmarried sisters…)

[NOTE: Don’t miss Kassandra Lamb’s guest post on Blogging vs Fiction here.]

Blurb: Missing on Maui by Kassandra Lamb

It’s an awkward situation at best, and a deadly one at worst.
Days before Kate Huntington-Canfield is scheduled to leave for her niece’s wedding on Maui, she receives a frantic call from said niece.
Amy’s mother–Kate’s rather difficult sister-in-law–is at it again, alienating the groom’s family and even the wedding planner. Can Aunt Kate come early and run interference?Soon after her arrival, Kate discovers that young women are going missing on the island, and Amy’s maid of honor is hanging out with a notorious local player. Is he involved in the disappearances?
Hawaii is supposed to be a relaxing paradise, but Aunt Kate is kept busy locating a new wedding planner (the delightful Pali Moon), refereeing between Amy and her mother and chasing down errant wedding party members… Oh, and facing off with a psychopath.

Book Title: Missing on Maui (A Kate on Vacation Mystery)
Author: Kassandra Lamb
Genre: Cozy Mystery
 114 pages
Publisher:  misterio press LLC (June 6, 2016)

Purchase Links: 

Amazon UK Amazon US

4 gold starMy Review: 4 out of 5 stars for Missing on Maui by Kassandra Lamb

In a recent post on her own blog, Kassandra Lamb redefined her vision of a cozy mystery. Old ladies with their knitting, their cats, or their teacups are out. Today’s cozy must meet six tests. I decided to see how her new release, Missing on Maui, fits that list.

1. The main character is an amateur sleuth. Protagonist Kate Huntington-Canfield is certainly that. She can’t seem to cross the street without stumbling over bodies, so her vacations usually involve a body count. Even now, when she arrives in Maui before her husband and children so she can run interference between her niece’s mother and all things wedding-related, Kate naps on the beach and wakes to find herself embroiled in a potentially deadly mystery where young women are disappearing, and she herself is in danger.

Maui road signs

Maui road signs

2. Something – the setting, the main character’s vocation, etc. – is out of the ordinary. Kate is a professional psychotherapist, and the vacation setting is paradise. (Or as close to that as Maui gets.) But the Maui that Kate soon sees is more than a beach with palm trees, as she ends up in a car chase on mountain roads with hairpin turns. I’ve never been to Maui myself so it was fun to join Kate in her surprise at the unconventional airport, her awe at the beauty of local scenery, and her appreciation for the history and culture she encounters.

3. At least some of the secondary characters are quirky. As the old saying goes, weddings should involve “something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue”. And the characters in this little mystery certainly fit that! For “something old” we have our old friends Kate and the family and friends we’ve met on so many earlier books. But both new and borrowed is Pali Moon (slogan “Let’s Get Maui’d”) as last-minute wedding planner replacement ‘borrowed’ from JoAnn Bassett’s Aloha Mystery series.

4. Crimes happen, usually murder, but minimal on-screen violence and no gory descriptions. While Kate does not, for once, stumble over bodies, her background lets her recognize the signs of people under stress, a potential psychopath, and a conspiracy in chilling contrast to the island paradise surrounding her.

5. Sex is off-screen. Through this series, we’ve followed Kate as a young widow, cautiously attracted to private investigator Skip, their growing love, marriage, and parenting. Their relationship is enthusiastically physical, but for these cozy vacation mysteries, definitely off-screen, and often hampered by the presence of their children.

6. No cursing. Now this one is why I’ll never write cozies. I imagine that it poses a challenge to author Kassandra Lamb as well, because her character Kate isn’t shy about ripping off a curse or two in the regular series.

There are two things I like most about this series, both the full-fledged murder mysteries and the vacation cozy mysteries. First is that the characters grow and develop over time. By the time we’ve reached Missing on Maui, there is so much we’ve shared with Kate and her friends and family. They’ve all changed, gotten realistically older, and faced inner demons. That level of backstory means that this book, while fully capable of standing on its own story arc, can only really be appreciated if you’ve followed the series.

The second thing that always appeals to me is that—as I mentioned in earlier reviews of this series—Kassandra Lamb’s knowledge of what motivates and drives people brings credibility and weight to her stories. As always, her ongoing themes of the importance of family—the ones we’re born into, the ones we choose, and the ones we accept without blood or legal ties—provide both the foundation for every book and the negative illustration of their power when those ties are abused.

As a psychotherapist, Kate (like her author, Kassandra Lamb) has a deeper understanding of what motivates people that lets her notice details others would miss. For a (hopefully spoiler-free) example, she holds back a young woman from rushing in to help with a rescue. “…don’t let her meet you like this. Otherwise, every time she looks at you, she’ll be reminded of this day, and all the days before it since March.”

In this story, the author plays fair with her audience. Clues are liberally scattered and noted, and the reader can easily match or even outpace Kate in figuring out what’s going on, while enjoying the spectacular scenery and local quirks encountered along the way. Some things require suspension of belief, such as why the bad guys would target young women who would obviously have friends and family capable of pressing the search for them if they turn up missing. But a little polite suspension of belief on the part of readers will allow for a quick fun read, a visit with old book friends, a virtual vacation, and a terrific summer read.

***I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.***