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Murder on the Orient Espresso

Murder on the Orient Espresso

4.5 6
by Sandra Balzo

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It’s November and Maggy Thorsen, co-owner of the Wisconsin gourmet coffeehouse, Uncommon Grounds, is in South Florida at an annual crime-writers’ conference with her beau, local sheriff Jake Pavlik, who is due to speak as a ‘forensics expert’.

Maggy’s pledge to behave solely as a tourist becomes trickier than she anticipated when


It’s November and Maggy Thorsen, co-owner of the Wisconsin gourmet coffeehouse, Uncommon Grounds, is in South Florida at an annual crime-writers’ conference with her beau, local sheriff Jake Pavlik, who is due to speak as a ‘forensics expert’.

Maggy’s pledge to behave solely as a tourist becomes trickier than she anticipated when the conference’s opening night event turns out to be a re-enactment of Agatha Christie’s classic, Murder on the Orient Express. As Maggy and Jake reluctantly set off on the night train to the Everglades to solve the ‘crime’, it’s clear that, as in the original novel, nothing is quite what it seems. And amidst rumours of careers taken, manuscripts stolen and vows broken, it seems that in the Everglades – as in life – the predator all too often becomes the prey.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Balzo’s exciting eighth mystery featuring Brookhills, Wis., coffeehouse maven Maggy Thorsen (after 2011’s Triple Shot) takes Maggy and her beau, Sheriff Jake Pavlik, to South Florida, where they join a group of mystery writers on a train outing billed as “Murder on the Orient Espresso.” Maggy looks forward to an easy ride, since her only job is to prepare and serve special coffee to the writers and their guests while Jake lectures about forensics. Unfortunately, a series of career crises, stolen manuscripts, and personal antagonisms builds to a real murder. When the train becomes stranded in the python-infested depths of the Everglades, with communication cut off and deadly predators both inside and out, Maggy must keep the passengers calm and the killer from striking again while Jake sets off to try to find help. It will take more than hot espresso to save this trip, but readers will be happy to jump on board. Agent: Nancy Yost, Nancy Yost Literary Agency. (Dec.)
From the Publisher
“Balzo’s exciting eighth mystery”
Publishers Weekly
"An appealing, gentle mystery, a cozy with a shot of Christie".
Library Journal
The simulated murder mystery train event is a popular staple for many gatherings, and this Florida-set mystery writers' conference is no exception. Accompanying her boyfriend sheriff Jake Pavlik, a featured conference speaker, for a vacation getaway in the Everglades, Maggy realizes she's in for more of a busman's holiday, as one of the guests is discovered dead, stabbed with a cake knife. Meanwhile, after a downpour, the tracks have flooded, and the train has stalled in the middle of nowhere with no cell phone access. Pythons, cake icing, and fierce jealousies all jumble together in an imaginative fashion as Jake and Maggy try to achieve some order out of chaos. VERDICT A nicely hewn homage to Agatha Christie's iconic mystery gives Balzo's seventh caffeinated series entry (after Triple Shot) a light and breezy boost. The Florida setting jazzes up the plot, and attentive readers will delight in Balzo's plentiful book and movie references.
Kirkus Reviews
An audience participation stunt at a mystery writers' convention leads unsurprisingly to murder. Although she didn't know it at the time, it turns out that coffeehouse owner Maggy Thorsen had excellent reason to badger her boyfriend, Brookhills County Sheriff Jake Pavlik, into bringing her along to Fort Lauderdale for Mystery 101. Conference organizer Zoe Scarlett, obviously an old friend of Jake's, looks about ready to eat her keynote speaker alive--which is more dinner than Maggy gets. Playing her own version of "I Shagged the Sheriff" leaves her with no time to dine before boarding the train for the convention's signature "Murder on the Orient Espresso" event: a three-hour slog through the Everglades during which conference attendees re-enact the Christie classic. Since funds are limited, the organizers offer no meal but copious booze, along with the obligatory corpse-shaped cake. When the cake knife goes missing, Maggy worries. When Larry Potter, author of scathing reviews on his website PotShots, also goes missing, even Pavlik and Zoe start to worry. It isn't until eccentric engineer Theodore B. Hertel Jr. points out that a torrential downpour has washed out the tracks beneath the train that the rest of the guests, happily sozzled on the excursion's only culinary offering, begin to worry. But Potter's estranged wife, Audra Edmonds, his reputed lover, Rosemary Darlington, his germaphobic agent, Carson, and even assistant conference organizer Missy Hudson can do little to help, leaving Maggy and her sweetie to solve the crime. Maggy's eighth (Triple Shot, 2011, etc.) moves slower than Hertel's locomotive, proving that not even a South Florida setting guarantees sunny days.

Product Details

Severn House Publishers
Publication date:
A Maggy Thorsen Mystery , #8
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
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File size:
449 KB

Meet the Author

Sandra Balzo is an award-winning author of crime fiction, including ten books in two different mystery series from Severn House--the Wisconsin-based Maggy Thorsen Mysteries and Main Street Murders, set in the High Country of North Carolina and featuring journalist AnnaLise Griggs. Balzo's books have garnered starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist, while being recommended to readers of Janet Evanovich, Charlaine Harris, Mary Daheim, Joan Hess and Margaret Maron. A Wisconsin native, Sandy now splits her time between South Florida and North Carolina.

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Murder on the Orient Espresso 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
wendyld More than 1 year ago
Not sure if it's because I grew up in the area and camped in the everglades when I was younger, or because I later lived for many years in the Ft. Lauderdale area where this book is set, but I loved it. Balzo did a terrific job capturing the background as a tourist might discover the Everglades. The idea of the writer's conference and the half built train tracks running through the glades parallel to Alligator Alley was brilliant. It made the setting for this mystery every bit as good as Agatha Christie's original one. Of course there was laugh out loud (break the tension) humor, which is Balzo's trademark. The faux Christie characters were colorful and believable in this setting. It's my favorite Maggie Thorsen Mystery so far!
MyBookAddictionandMore More than 1 year ago
Maggie and her boyfriend Jake Pavlik, Pavlik as Maggie likes to call him were off to Florida for a mystery writers conference. Maggie had visions of a passion filled weekend. That was until the busty Zoe showed up and had plans of her own for Jake. Zoe was not thrilled that Maggie and Jake were sharing more than a room together, but Zoe needed to get ready for the nights fun. Murder on the orient espresso, a Agatha Christie based murder train ride. On the bus ride to the train Maggie learned a lot about all the other guests. A lot of the guests seems to dislike one another and some even appeared to be old flames. Including Zoe and her boyfriend Jake. The guests were ready to enjoy a murder mystery when one of the guests went missing. Little did this group of readers, writers and reviewers know they were actually in a murder mystery themselves. I truly enjoyed this book. I loved the characters and the detail about Laurence the book reviewer that is not always nice to authors made me laugh. The characters in the book truly are that. The book reminded me of the movie clue with all the outragous personalities. I got a kick out of the fact they see a story and opportunity where ever they look, even if it is a dead body. A great read, can be read in a day, and once you open this book you won't want to put it down. Rating: 4.5 Heat Rating: Sweet Reviewed: By Rae Courtesy Of My Book Addiction And More
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Ritr614 More than 1 year ago
Murder on the Orient Espresso is not only a great title, but also an engaging train ride through the Florida Everglades. This eighth book in the Maggy Thorsen series is entertaining, funny, and a cleverly put together puzzle. I’ve read the entire series and from the first days of Uncommon Grounds, through Bean There, Done That, and after Triple Shot, Maggy and friends have been pure fun. In book eight, Maggy and the oh-so-delicious Jake are off to the Everglades for a Crime Writers’ Conference with attendees playing the Agatha Christie roles. With perfectly believable ingenuity, Maggy again must solve her way out of a murder. Even with humorous dialogue, the far richer comedy of character aspect rounds out each story as you try to sort through the clues. Sandra Balzo creates a realistic sense of place and the narrow confines of the cars create an atmosphere of rising tension, bubbling jealousy, increasing hunger, and flooding swamp waters. And inside is a murderer playing the part of a murderer. I had a couple of laugh-out-loud moments in my quiet little library space and thought I should explain to another patron that pythons, feet, and cake knives were indeed a funny thing. I enjoyed this mystery so much that for a moment I felt bad about having such fun over a murder. But the characters were so stimulating and amusing that I just pretended I had an espresso martini, nodded to the bemused library visitor, and went on reading.