America's Queen of Suspense -- Mary Higgins Clark -- joins forces with her daughter Carol -- bestselling author of the Regan Reilly mysteries -- in this fast-paced novel set on a special holiday cruise that sets sail from Miami the day after Christmas.
Alvirah Meehan, the lottery winner turned amateur sleuth; her husband, Willy; recently hitched private detective Regan Reilly and her groom, Jack, head of the NYPD Major Case Squad; and Regan's parents, Nora and Luke, are guests on the Royal Mermaid's maiden voyage, the Santa Cruise. The cruise is Commodore Randolph Weed's gift to a select group of people who in the last year "made the world a better place." What he really wants is good publicity that will generate future bookings for his struggling new venture. He also plans to scatter his beloved mother's ashes at sea during this four-day odyssey in the Caribbean. What he doesn't know is that his ne'er-do-well nephew, Eric, has smuggled two escaping criminals on board.
Alvirah won the cruise at a charity auction and persuaded the Reillys to accompany her and Willy. Other passengers include members of the Oklahoma Readers and Writers group, who volunteer their time teaching people to read. The group is planning a mystery seminar dedicated to a Ghost of Honor, the late Left Hook Louie, a champion prizefighter turned bestselling author. There are also ten men on board who had donated their time playing Santa Claus during the holiday season as well as assorted other charitable folk, all planning on a restful post-Christmas vacation.
The hoped-for tranquility soon vanishes. A terrified mystery fan swears she has spotted the Ghost of Honor in the ship's chapel. Two Santa suits disappear from a locked supply room. A storm develops, and in the infirmary an attempt is made on the life of a seemingly feeble passenger. Back in Miami, a TV reporter is turning the cruise into a public-relations nightmare, thanks to her spies on the ship.
As the Royal Mermaid sails through troubled waters, Alvirah, Regan, and Jack are uncovering the clues that lead them to dangerous criminals who were not on the original guest list!
Filled with suspense and humor, Santa Cruise is a holiday mystery you won't want to miss. Join the Clarks as they bring this unpredictable voyage to a hair-raising and heartwarming conclusion and ring in the New Year.
At the start of the lighthearted fourth yuletide mystery from the bestselling mother-daughter Clarks (after 2004'sThe Christmas Thief ), Randolph Weed, "self-styled commodore," launches his newly refurbished boat, theRoyal Mermaid , from Miami with a "Santa Cruise" to raise money for charity and reward 400 "Do-Gooders of the Year." Meanwhile, Weed's greedy nephew, Eric Manchester, has made a secret $2 million deal with escaped felons Bull's-Eye Tony Pinto and Barron Highbridge to keep them hidden aboard theRoyal Mermaid until it reaches Fishbowl Island, where they can make trouble out of federal jurisdiction. Fortunately, there are plenty of Do-Gooders to foil the bad guys, notably the mystery mavens of the Oklahoma Readers and Writers group and sleuthing philanthropist Alvirah Meehan. Full of mystery-lite cheer but lacking in style and substance, this collaboration is never quite buoyant enough to really deck the halls for fans of the Clarks' superior solo efforts.(Nov.) Copyright 1997-2005 Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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November 14, 2006
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Excerpt from Santa Cruise by Mary Higgins Clark
Monday, December 19th
Randolph Weed, self-styled commodore, stood on the deck of his pride and joy, the Royal Mermaid, an old ship he had bought and paid a fortune to refurbish and on which he intended to spend the rest of his life playing host to both friends and paying guests. Docked in the Port of Miami, the ship was being readied for its maiden voyage, the "Santa Cruise," a four-day trip in the Caribbean with one stop at Fishbowl Island.
Dudley Loomis, his forty-year-old PR man, who would also serve as cruise director, joined Randolph on the deck. He took a deep breath of the refreshing breeze blowing off the Atlantic Ocean and sighed happily. "Commodore, I have e-mailed all the major news organizations once again to let them know about this unique and wonderful maiden voyage. I began the release, 'On December 26th, Santa is turning in his sleigh, giving Rudolph and the other reindeer some time off, and taking a cruise. It's the Santa Cruise -- Commodore Randolph Weed's gift to a select group of people who have in their own unique way made the world a better place this past year.' "
"I've always liked giving gifts," the Commodore said, a smile on his weathered but still handsome sixty-three-year-old face. "But people didn't always appreciate it. My three ex-wives never understood what a deep and caring man I am. For goodness' sake, I gave my last wife my Google stock before it went public."
"That was a terrible mistake," Dudley said solemnly, shaking his head. "A terrible mistake."
"I don't begrudge her the money. I've made and lost fortunes. Now I want to give back to others. As you know, this Santa Cruise was created to raise money for charity, and celebrate those who have given of themselves."
"It was my idea," Dudley reminded him.
"True. But the money to pay for this cruise is coming out of my pocket. I spent considerably more than I expected in order to make the Royal Mermaid the beautiful ship she has become. But she's worth every penny." He paused. "At least I hope she is."
Dudley Loomis held his tongue. Everyone had warned the Commodore that he'd be better off having a new ship built than dumping a fortune into this old tub, but I do admit it cleaned up rather well, Dudley told himself. He had been cruise director on mammoth vessels where he had to worry about several thousand guests, many of whom he found intensely irritating. He would now deal with only four hundred passengers, most of whom would probably be happy to sit on deck and read instead of having entertainment shoved down their throats twenty-four hours a day. Dudley had come up with the idea of the Santa Cruise when reservations for passage on the Royal Mermaid were almost nil. He was a PR man right down to the rubber soles of his yachting shoes.
"We should have a free cruise the day after Christmas to get the kinks out of the ship before any paying passengers, or reviewers, come on board," he had told his boss. "You'll donate passage to charities and do-gooders. It'll only be a few days, and in the long run it will pay for itself with the good publicity I'll get for you. By the time our official maiden voyage rolls around on January 20th, we'll be turning people away. You wait and see."