Loco Motive by Mary Daheim (Review #2)

Loco MotiveReviewed by Caryn St. Clair

Loco Motive is the latest entry in a very long running series by Mary Daheim. For twenty-four previous books, readers have followed Bed and Breakfast owner Judith McMonigle and her somewhat zany cousin Renie as they have become involved in and solved numerous murders. As with many popular series, there are some books that are stronger than others. Sometimes a series just needs a change in setting-to take the characters on the road, to pep things up a bit. That is apparently what Daheim intended to do in Loco Motive.

The book begins with one of Judith’s guests, a stuntman, taking a flying leap from her roof and leaving in an ambulance. Realizing life was bordering on insane at home, Judith readily agreed to accompany Renie on a train trip to Boston. But the madcap action just keep on rolling for the pair as it turns out that the stuntman and his entourage are also on the train, as well as an assortment of other oddball characters. The train is involved in an accident in Montana, but the aftermath of sheriff pursuit carries over into North Dakota and the two women may well have (briefly) stolen a car!

While the idea of having Judith and Renie take a trip was good, the execution was a bit rough from a couple of different points of view. Mostly there is just TOO MUCH of nearly everything-too many characters to keep straight, too many plot threads going on to follow and too much activity to keep up with. The whole book is just plainly over done.

To be more specific, not only are there quite a lot of characters, some of them are really two different characters-two separate identities, but that point is not altogether clear for readers at some of the more crucial times. Also, as far as characters go, Judith has over the series, become a hard, crabby, almost mean spirited woman who is becoming increasingly hard to like.

As far as the plotting goes, the women are traveling across country, but wait! The stuntman who is suing Judith turns out to be on the same train! And then the train is involved in an accident in Montana, a porter goes missing, a body is found, Judith is a major suspect, a fairly important character and her family waltz off the train and disappear, the Montana Sheriff seems to get geographically turned around as much of the police action takes place in North Dakota and who knows what else. As I closed the book, I was left thinking, “What?” There was so much going on that by the end, it isn’t entirely clear what actually did happen.

Readers who like train trips might like this one. Followers of the series may find this to be a fine read. Readers who are not familiar with Judith and Renie had best go back to earlier books before trying this one.

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