“What happens when you take a scattered, water-phobic actress/P.I. out of the deserts of Arizona and drop her on a literature-themed cruise ship sailing to Hawaii? You get comedy, drama, danger, and more than a little madcap action in the form of Oliver Twisted, the third Ivy Meadows Mystery from the wickedly funny and talented Cindy Brown.” Mystery Playground
“Familiar characters from the previous two entries in this series are sure to please, but it is the sympathetically loyal and resilient lead actress who will win readers’ hearts. This continues to be a genuinely heart-warming and fun-spirited depiction of the eccentric niches within the entertainment world.” Kings River Life Magazine
“Brown mixes laugh-out-loud observations about the acting life with a witty and intriguing mystery. Consider yourself warned. Oliver Twisted is a fast-paced addictive read impossible to put down until Ivy has caught the killer.” – D.E. Ireland, Agatha Award-Nominated Author of Move Your Blooming Corpse
“You okay, Olive…er, Ivy, or uh, should I call you Nancy?” said my uncle, sticking his foot further and further in his mouth.
I should have known Uncle Bob would be the one to blow our cover. After all, he was just a private investigator, while I was a professional actor. But I didn’t think he’d blow it so quickly. We’d been undercover on the S.S. David Copperfield for less than six hours and weren’t supposed to know each other. Luckily, the security guard didn’t notice that my uncle called me by my real name instead of what was printed on my nametag.
Probably because there was a dead body in the room.
Our adventure on the high seas began early that morning on dry land (very dry land: Uncle Bob and I lived in Phoenix).
“OMG,” I texted my uncle, who stood in line in front of me at the airline gate at Phoenix Sky Harbor. “Is that a Rolex?”
He chuckled as he read my message, then my cell announced his reply: “Nice fake, huh?”
Uncle Bob had ditched his usual Hawaiian shirt and cargo shorts in favor of Wranglers, a pearl-snap-buttoned Western shirt, a big silver belt buckle, the fake Rolex, and a gold bolo tie with a steer in the center, fashioned out of what looked like diamonds. I couldn’t compliment him on his stunning ensemble because we were already undercover and I had to act like I didn’t know him. We’d been hired to investigate a string of thefts aboard a cruise line. Uncle Bob was pretending to be a guest—a wealthy rancher— and I was posing as one of the actors in the onboard show. That’s right, we were getting paid to cruise to Hawaii (Hawaii!), plus we’d each get a ten-thousand-dollar bonus if we found evidence that would stand up in court. Nice work if you can get it.
On the plane, I settled into an aisle seat across from my uncle. Even though I couldn’t talk to him, I still liked being near him. As I buckled myself in, the elderly man who had the window seat in my row tapped me on the shoulder. “I’ll probably fall asleep,” he said, leaning over the open seat between us. “I might sound like I’m choking, but don’t worry. It’s just the way I sleep.”
I nodded, pulled out a copy of the script the cruise line had sent me, and began to reread it. I’d only had a few days to prep, but would’ve jumped on a plane right away for a chance like this. Working part-time at my uncle’s PI firm kept me financially afloat, but just barely. My car had recently failed emissions, so I was in desperate need of funds and had no acting work lined up. When I learned about the cruise, the money, and the fact that I’d play Nancy in the onboard musical version of Oliver Twist, I felt like I’d died and gone to Broadway.
“SNOrkLER!” said my now-asleep seatmate. Wow. Good thing he warned me.
“And what takes you to San Francisco?” The fortyish blonde sitting next to Uncle Bob drew out her words in the manner of a Western rural-dweller.
“I’m goin’ on a cruise, ma’am.”
Ma’am? And was that a drawl? Maybe acting ran in the family. “I am too. Which cruise line are you on?”
“Get Lit! Cruises.”
“Me too.” The woman sounded delighted. “Thought it’d be a hoot to learn something new.”
Get Lit! was a high-end literature-themed cruise line designed to appeal to readers, to families who wanted their kids to take an interest in the classics, and to cruisers who wanted to feel like they were getting an education and a buffet. There were Shakespeare cruises and Jane Austen cruises and Mark Twain riverboat cruises, and…
“Did you hear about the Jack London incident?” she asked.
On the Alaskan cruise in question, a pack of huskies got loose and ran rampant through the dining room. The dogs were rounded up, but not before eating five hundred pounds of steak dinners, several Baked Alaskas, and a mink coat.