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How to Ruin a Vacation

A Kate Williams Mystery by Becky A. Bartness

How to Ruin a Vacation by Becky A. Bartness

Review: Becky A. Bartness (an attorney herself) introduces lawyer and amateur sleuth Kate Williams who uncovers strange happenings while on vacation in How to Ruin a Vacation.

Kate's image of a week at a luxurious desert spa is shattered when she arrives at the Lazy ZZ Ranch in Arizona. Rather than the oasis she pictured, she's greeted by plastic pink flamingoes incongruously placed among a large assortment of other tacky lawn ornaments. The sprawling grounds are not well marked or lit, making the simple task of getting from one place to another difficult. One evening she takes a wrong turn and finds herself witness to what appears to be two people, a man and a woman, disposing of a dead body, that of a staff member that she had only recently met. While trying to get away, she stumbles into a ravine, knocking her unconscious, only to awaken in the home of a neighbor to the Lazy ZZ, a stranger with a past: years ago, he killed his wife after finding her in bed with another man. Not knowing who she can trust, and with the erratic availability of phone service to call for help, Kate embarks on her own investigation to determine who killed Lazy ZZ worker and why.

How to Ruin a Vacation is a relatively short book written in a crisp, almost spare, style that seems perfectly suited to its character, Kate Williams. The opening chapters that bring Kate to the Lazy ZZ Ranch are terrific, introducing other characters and setting the stage for her investigation. As a bonus, it's frequently amusing and a pleasure to read. But about midway through, the book loses some of its edginess that was so appealing in the beginning. For reasons never made quite clear, Kate goes from being a determined, intelligent, independent woman to a one that seems timid, easily frightened, and insecure. From a plot perspective, the intent here seems to be that Kate doesn't know who can be trusted with what she witnessed and thus presents herself a dependent and helpless female to further her investigation. But this is so out of character that it seems silly rather than strategic.

Despite the rather weak conclusion (a lead-in to the sequel?) and some other minor inconsistencies in plotting, How to Ruin a Vacation is an entertaining debut mystery with Kate Williams clearly having the potential to continue to delight readers in subsequent books in the series.

Acknowledgment: Becky A. Bartness provided a copy of How to Ruin a Vacation for this review.

Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …

Mystery Book Review: How to Lose a Job by Becky A. BartnessHow to Lose a Job
iUniverse (Hardcover), February 2009
ISBN-13: 9780595497096; ISBN-10: 0595497098

Location(s) referenced in How to Ruin a Vacation: Arizona

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How to Ruin a Vacation by Becky A. Bartness

How to Ruin a Vacation by A Kate Williams Mystery

Publisher: iUniverse
Format: Trade Paperback
ISBN-13: 978-0-595-45405-1
Publication Date:
List Price: $12.95

Buy the Book (purchase options)

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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews

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