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The Marmora, a small luxury ocean liner en route from England to Australia via Cairo in 1908, serves as the venue for Allen's fifth lighthearted historical (after 2003's Murder on the Caronia) to feature private detectives George Porter Dillman and Genevieve Masefield. The sleuthing pair are acting as unofficial bodyguards to the Duke and Duchess of Fife and their children, but they also have reason to keep an eye on a slew of other first-class passengers, including a noted Egyptologist traveling with his musical daughter and a strongbox of artifacts, an urbane investor in a Cairo hotel project, an attractive American widow and her sulky daughter and a boastful French chef with constant complaints about the food. A series of jewel and antiques thefts, as well as a ghastly murder that the ship's authorities take great care to cover up, propels the plot at a stately pace. To complicate matters, Genevieve to her horror sees her former lover on board with his new bride. The happily-ever-after ending and the picture of gracious living during an era when security was of relatively little concern should please mystery readers seeking purely escapist fare.
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The handsome and elegant George Porter Dillman and his partner, the gorgeous and spirited Genevieve Masefield, ship's detectives, leave the Cunard line for the P&O Marmora, on its way to Australia via Egypt in 1908. The Marmora purser, Kilhendry, resents Dillman's American roots and the pair's experience with Cunard and does what he can to make their work difficult, even when jewelry starts disappearing from the cabins of women traveling alone. Then a murder must be investigated quietly, as the princess royal and her family are also traveling on the ship. Complexities abound: Genevieve finds her odious former fiance on board, on his honeymoon; an oily French chef and a secretive German photographer cause irritation; and various difficult or unpleasant people attempt to attach themselves like limpets to our heroes. There turns out to be more crime even than expected, but the real pull here is the charm of the detective couple and the rich period detail in travel and accoutrements. GraceAnne DeCandido
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