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Four moon gifSt. Martin's Minotaur (Hardcover), ISBN 031224116X
On Saturday, November 16, 1907, George Dillman and Genevieve Masefield, private detectives employed by the Cunard Line, prepare to board the world's largest passenger ship, Cunard's Mauretania, for her maiden voyage to New York. Separately they make acquaintances amongst the throng of passengers eager to reach the dry, warm shelter of the huge ship.

Book: Conrad Allen, Murder on the MauretaniaAccompanying the crowds of people slated for second-class cabins, George enjoys the warmth of the Jarvis family -- especially the friendship of their youngest, eight-year-old Alexandria. A mixed group of posh young things eager to enjoy the vast comforts and swanky delights of their first class accommodations adopts Genevieve.

For George and Genevieve this isn't a social activity. They mingle with the masses to spot thieves who might prey on Cunard's passengers, and because the Mauretania carries 2,750,000 in gold bullion intended to bolster the failing US bank system.

Max Hirsch's ability to bring out the social confidence of his fellow second-class passengers makes him popular among his deckmates. But George sees him slip a silver salt and pepper under his coat during dinner the first night out. When confronted by George, Max describes the incident as a crime of opportunity. But George wonders if this garrulous man might harbor more than a mild larcenous streak -- especially when valuable items begin disappearing from a number of cabins.

Book: Conrad Allen, Murder on the LusitaniaGenevieve learns the ways and affinities of the first-class passengers. Katherine and Walter Wymark, in particular, fascinate her. Why did Katherine -- a most beautiful and charming woman -- marry the crude and unlettered Walter, who depends on his millions to lend him the pretense of class and status. Silent, unsociable men surround the couple, but these same men flutter like butterflies in the warmth of Katherine's presence.

Handsome, erudite and powerful millionaire Orvill Delaney exerts a powerful call to Genevieve. Orvill courts her intellect and claims her attention, even in a crowded room. But despite Orvill's strong attractions, nothing can faze Genevieve's affection for George. A good thing too, because George and Genevieve soon find themselves working around the clock when a passenger, the ship's cat and the gold go missing.

Conrad Allen brings alive a ship and era never witnessed by today's generations. His necessary and interesting descriptions of the class system aboard ship explain the social landscape but never interfere with the smooth flow of his narrative. Leisurely and vivid descriptions delight the reader's senses while the non-stop plot runs faster than the Mauretania's four massive engines. After finishing the last page of Murder on the Mauretania I found myself surprised by the book's actual page count; I felt I read a far longer book. Allen packs a great deal in 277 pages. If you like reading M. M. Kaye, Agatha Christie or Ngaio Marsh, you will love this book.

Suzanne Frisbee

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