As I have mentioned previously, I love books reminiscent of the Golden Era of Detection. Mysteries where the plots are elaborate, the clues subtle, the characters multifaceted and the vocabulary expansive. Throw in a good dose of appropriate local color from around the world, and I’m beyond content.
I have just recently discovered the Fiona Mason Mysteries by Judith Cranswick. The premise being that following the death of her husband, 50-something Fiona takes a job as a Travel Coach Tour Manager based out of the UK. Each book follows the levelheaded guide and her endearing bus driver, Winston, as they visit various European countries, along with a coachload of interesting passengers. Along the way, they stumble upon murders, smugglers, assassinations, thieves and a very charming MI6 agent.
Book 1 – Blood in the Bulb Fields, has us off to Amsterdam during Tulip Season on Fiona’s “maiden voyage” as a Tour Manager. Unfortunately, the dead bodies start piling up before they can even cross the Channel. I find the added travel and history commentary fascinating. However, if that isn’t one of your interest, it is easy to skim over those bits without losing anything related to the crimes being solved. Mysterious deaths and diamond smuggling keep this from being the boring job Fiona’s sons think she has.
Book 2 – Blood in the Wine, is a tour of the Rhine River region with an emphasis on Mosel Wine Country, where my favorite wine originates.
I found the travelogue and wine making notes as enjoyable as the mystery itself. Was the brutal stabbing of one of the passengers related to his annoying personality and where do the missing plans for a guidance missile system fit in?
Book 3 – Blood and Chocolate, takes place several months later during a culture tour of Belgium. The tour was supposed to be an easier one for Fiona as it included a private group who would be doing most of the lectures on Flemish Art. But things don’t go according to plan when a British Member of Parliament is assassinated while the group is dispersed throughout the city. Once again, Fiona finds herself relying on her faithful West Indies driver for advice and support while helping MI6 chief, Peter Montgomery-Jones answer questions that only her passengers can help with.
There are five books in the series so far. I’m reading #4 Blood Hits the Wall at the moment. If you’d like to save a few dollars, I recommend purchasing the boxed set of #1-#3. So sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery as we sleuth across Europe!