Thursday, July 25, 2013

Death Among the Deckchairs by Karen Robbins

Book Blurb:

A cruise. A bikini clad body. What next?

All Casey wanted was a relaxing cruise where she could visit with her daughter, the cruise director, but suddenly she finds herself in the middle of a murder at sea. Who would have guessed the beautiful young woman dead in the deckchair next to her had an enemy who would use her love of the sun to end her life? When Max joins Casey, what she thought would be a romantic ending to her cruise becomes an intense search for evidence. Somewhere among all the dermatologists holding a conference on board ship is a killer. Is it the victim’s doctor husband? Or one of his co-workers? And how does the shark expert fit into the puzzle?

Read an Excerpt:

The steady squeak of rubber on the wooden deck behind me got closer. There was a rhythm to it. Like a window wiper on a windshield when the rain lets up and the glass is almost dry. Squeak-squeak. Squeak-squeak. I knew what it meant. Another jogger ready to pass me by. Let him pass. I was much more content to keep a moderate pace and enjoy the beautiful warm morning with a cool sea breeze on my face. Four and a half times around the promenade deck and my morning mile would be finished. By the time I returned to my stateroom, it would be neatly put back into order and fresh towels would be hung in the bathroom. This was truly a vacation from my regular job as a Household Manager and my second job as some now teasingly referred to it, amateur detective.

Kathleen Catherine O’Shaughnessy Stengel, you are certainly no detective. I smiled. The one who was the true detective was my friend, Max Dugan. He even had a badge and a position in the sheriff’s department that he almost lost when he helped me find my former boss’ killer. While I enjoyed my time at sea with my daughter, the cruise director, I missed Max’s beaming smile and shared passion for baseball. He kept me up on the Dodger scores through his daily emails. I enjoyed his wit and appreciated his friendship. I didn’t mention to him that we could actually get ESPN at sea and I could catch a game here and there when the satellites were aligned correctly or that the little daily newspaper we had on board listed the scores.

The squeaky sneakers passed me by again. I refrained from calling out that they could use a little oil. My snarky comments would only reveal my envy over the pace Squeaky Sneakers kept. It seemed with each slow circuit I made, more people began to rouse from their beds and, having finished breakfast, found their way to the promenade deck for a morning constitutional. Some walked. Some jogged. And one amazing young man in a wheel chair used his arms to propel himself around the deck for his workout.

Everyone had his or her own style. Some shuffled. Some almost skipped. There were those who threw their arms out wildly and those who kept tight fists in front of them as though they were sparing through their power walk. I loved people watching. I’d done a lot of it since getting on board the Enchanted, the name of the ship where my daughter, Evelyn, is employed as cruise director. Evelyn had arranged a special family discount for me to be able to afford my two weeks of cruising. To my surprise, I was treated as a full fare passenger, and enjoyed all the perks the cruise ship had to offer even though I was a discounted passenger.

Now, almost into my second week of cruising, I was no longer a rookie. I could find my way around the ship most of the time without having to ask directions. While the Enchanted wasn’t the biggest ship on the ocean, I could almost imagine someone getting lost forever on it.

I paused for a moment and looked out at the sparkling sea. It was a field of diamonds that gleamed from the rays of the morning sun. Why did the ocean smell so much better from the ship? I lived close enough to it in Florida but there was never quite the same salty air smell. Maybe all the palm trees and bougainvillea interfered with the clean fresh ocean air. I sighed. At the risk of being mesmerized by the view, I pulled myself back into the walking/jogging path once again to finish my rounds.

The flippity-flop of sandals or flip-flops sounded behind me. Seriously. Who takes a mile-long walk in flip-flops? Someone younger than me, I guessed. At fifty-four, my feet weren’t going to put up with no support for long walks.

I stopped for a few moments again to look out at the waves. Evelyn told me to watch for the flying fish when we got to the Caribbean. We were there now. Behind us was the Panama Canal where we had crossed from the Pacific side to the Atlantic side. Who knew that you actually didn’t go west to east? As the historian had narrated our day-long passage, he mentioned that we were actually going from the Southeast to the Northwest. While the latitude and longitude numbers the captain spouted were more confusing than a ball player’s stats, I had all the confidence in the world that he would find the way to San Juan, Puerto Rico, our next port of call. From there, it would be two more days at sea and I’d be saying good bye to Evelyn at Fort Lauderdale and heading off hopefully to a new job in Orchid Village. More importantly, I’d see Max again. He had promised to drive down and meet me at the pier to drive me home. I missed that guy—a lot.

I stopped at the stern and leaned on the rail, entranced by the boiling water trail the ship’s props made behind us. Similar to a plane’s contrail in the sky, the aqua water frothed for yards to create a path that showed where we had been. The slight motion of the ship made the horizon rise and fall in rhythmic motion that was quite relaxing as long as you weren’t prone to seasickness. Completely captivated by the scene, I didn’t notice the nicely uniformed young officer who stepped up next to me and until he called my name.

“Mrs. Stengel! Good morning!”

“Charles!” I put a hand to my chest. “You startled me.”

“Oh, sorry.” A little wisp of breeze stirred a dark curl from the top of his manicured hair. He deftly patted it back into place and joined me in leaning on the rail of the ship to watch the ship’s frothy contrail.

“It’s another beautiful day in paradise,” I said. “Are all things quiet and secure?”

My question was more to start conversation than to affirm any fears I might have had about security on the ship. Charles, make that Chief Security Officer Charles Walden, was a good friend of Evelyn’s—a very good friend. One might even say there was a spark of romance between the two but I wasn’t going to bet the whole ballgame on them. I have a friend whose advice to those with marriage-aged children who might be in a serious relationship is, “Don’t love the boy and don’t hate the boy. Either way you may stand to lose.” It was hard not to love Charles though. Dare I hope?

Charles grinned at me. “Are you looking for a new crime to solve?”

I playfully elbowed him. “Of course not. I was just inquiring about your day.”

“My day will be easy as long as crew and passengers behave themselves. Tomorrow though, is another story. Port days are a bit hectic with all the security checks and some passengers disembarking as well as a few we will be taking on.”

I could not imagine in this day and age of high security in large public venues what a job it must be to keep an eye on everyone. Even the ballparks have taken to searching pocketbooks as you enter. I just don’t carry one to the game anymore.

“Have you seen Evelyn this morning?” I pitched the question just inside the strike zone to see if he’d swing and give me more confidence about their relationship.

“No, not yet. But she did send me a message to meet the two of you for lunch. I hope you don’t mind me joining you.”

“Not at all. I’ll look forward to it.”

He straightened up, touched my shoulder lightly, and said, “I’ll see you then. Have a good morning.”

I watched his confident stride as he walked to the port side, rounded the corner and disappeared. If more batters approached the plate like that they’d probably hit more home runs. I really liked that boy—young man—and I was convinced Evelyn did too. Her eyes lit up when he came into view like they never had with anyone else before. Lunch would be fun with the two of them and out of respect for my friend’s advice, I would try really hard not to fall in love with Charles as a prospective son-in-law.

After one more deep cleansing breath of sea air, I headed off to begin my agenda for the day. Reading by the pool and getting a little sun. Lunch with Charles and Evelyn. Taking in the art auction. Watching the master chef’s cooking demonstration. Dinner. The evening show. And then early to bed. I wanted to be up in time to see the sail-in to the port of San Juan. Evelyn said it was not-to-miss.

I reached for the door to enter the inside of the ship but it swung open before I touched it.

“Ah, mornin’ to you lassie,” said a man I had come to know well this past week. Mr. MacBride was Scottish gentleman through and through including his attire on formal nights which was a full dress kilt in tartan plaid, a short black jacket, white shirt with bow tie, and of course the furry purse that he called a sporran. He wore knee high socks with an argyle print that matched his tartan and shiny black shoes. He was quite the object of attention as he danced his way through the lounges picking out the ladies who were unaccompanied. For some unaccountable reason, he’d chosen to zero in on me several times.

“Good morning, Mr. MacBride,” I said smiling as he tipped the tam that sat upon his thick white hair. It was the same green tartan plaid as the kilt he wore on formal nights.

“Tis a beautiful morning, Ms. Stengel.” He took a deep breath and stepped aside to allow me to pass. “I would have loved to spend it with ye but I see you’ve finished your mornin’ walk.”

“That I have, Mr. MacBride,” I said as I started to pass.

“Please, Ms. Stengel, call me Donaidh.”

We’d been through this before. I didn’t want to get too familiar and encourage him. His name was Donaidh, pronounced Do-nee which sounded like Donny, a name that somehow didn’t seem to fit him.

I smiled at him and said, “You have a great day.” I didn’t look back and kept going.

By the time I got back to my cabin to pick up my book and change into a sleeveless top, Carlos, my cabin steward, had already made the bed, wiped up the bathroom, replaced wet towels, and put a little point on the toilet paper roll. I wondered if the pointed toilet paper was something I needed to add to my routine as a Household Manager. While cleaning was part of my job description, it wasn’t all of it. I arranged schedules for maintenance, social activities that took place in the home, planned for healthy meals, made sure my employers’ wardrobe was neat and orderly, and generally kept the household ship shape. My heart skipped a beat as I thought about starting a new job with a new family after my cruise ended. I hoped it wouldn’t take too long to find employment. I couldn’t afford to stay in a rented condo too long without an income.

I plopped my book, my sun block, and a bottle of water in my drawstring pool bag and settled my sunglasses on top of my head. I traded my wide brimmed straw hat that I’d bought in my first port for the more comfortable baseball cap I’d brought from home. The wide brim on my new hat made the it pop up when I leaned back against the deckchair. Irritating. Fashion was never more important than comfort for me. Tucking my sea pass into the rear pocket of my capris, I headed out to see if there were any deckchairs that hadn’t already been claimed by a towel and a book.

As luck would have it, the deckchairs around the pool were all accounted for—at least any with a spot of sun on them. But on the open deck just above the pool, I found a spot that looked like it would be perfect. If the ship didn’t change course, the shade would cover it in about a half hour. That was more than enough time for me to get my daily dose of UV rays. After all, what’s the fun of a cruise in the Caribbean if you come home pasty white?

Speaking of pasty white, I looked up to find a young woman blocking my sunshine who obviously had not been taking advantage of the sunny days we’d had on our cruise. A floppy wide brimmed hat shaded her shoulders as well as her face. Her fashionable lavender bikini was accented with a little matching wrap around her hips that barely concealed the fact that the bikini was just that—bikini sized. Was I more envious of her figure, her youth, or her fashion sense? If I added and dares to show it off to the list, I had a home run.

“Is this chair taken?” she asked in a sweet child-like voice.

“No. You’re welcome to it.”

“Great!” She unrolled the pool towel and draped it over the lounge chair. Reaching into the straw bag that matched the straw hat, she pulled out a magazine, a smart phone, and a bottle of something that appeared to have a prescription label on it.

“This is the first chance I’ve had to get out in the sun,” my bikini-clad neighbor said as she began to lather her legs and arms with whatever was in the prescription bottle. “My husband is a dermatologist and he is adamantly opposed to sunbathing.”

“Is he one of the doctors on board for the conference?” It was hard not to notice the posters announcing meetings and workshops for the doctors on board. Evelyn had said that it was some association for dermatologists who were cruising and using sea days for their meetings.

“Yes. He brought his whole staff with him. Sort of a bonus for a good year.” She removed her hat and secured her beautiful wavy red hair in a knot she deftly fashioned and then somehow set in place with a hair accessory that looked like a fancy chopstick. More lotion went on her face and neck before she leaned back with a sigh. “Oh, this feels soooo good. I didn’t realize being married to a dermatologist was going to cut into my enjoyment of the sun.”

Of course if the rest of the world didn’t get out in the sun, her dermatologist husband wouldn’t be bringing the whole office on a cruise thanks to the profitability of his practice. I gave myself a gold star for obeying my Coach’s admonition to be kind to others and didn’t say what I was thinking. When I let Him, God kept my tongue in check.

“I guess I’m an experiment today though,” she went on. She reached into a small plastic bag and pulled out two cotton patches that looked like they were soaked in water and patted them onto her eyelids as she laid her head back. “The lotion in the bottle is a new concoction that my husband came up with. He says it will keep out the harmful rays of the sun and just let those good rays in that will give me a healthy tan.”

Hmmm. Healthy tan sounded like an oxymoron to me.

“It has an almond scent,” I said as I sniffed the air a bit. “Unusual. Most lotions have that distinct coconut smell or an awful chemical smell.”

“It does smell nice, doesn’t it?”

She sighed and settled into the chair a bit more. I took it that our conversation was at an end and picked up my book again. I had finished the story about a three-fingered pitcher, Mordecai Brown and had moved on to a book about the World Series scandal of 1919. I only had four days to get it read before our arrival in Fort Lauderdale but I figured that was plenty of time. Unfortunately the motion of the ship and the warm breezes put me to sleep too often. This morning was no exception. I felt myself nodding and soon I just gave in.

Startled, I awoke with a jerk that sent my book sliding off my stomach to land with a smack on the deck. I blinked. The shade I had fallen asleep in was gone. The ship must have turned slightly or else I had grossly miscalculated. Good thing I wasn’t the one navigating. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and looked over to see if my youthful neighbor was still soaking in the rays. She had moved her chair further away. Was I snoring? But she still enjoyed the sun. So much so that she was almost beet red! Her dermatologist husband was not going to like that. But then, he was the one who claimed he had a miracle sunblock and had encouraged her to experiment.

Maybe I was a little paranoid after finding my former boss strewn over his workbench in his orchid greenhouse like he’d died swinging a baseball bat but this little gal looked like she’d crumpled from a cramp running around the bases. Maybe she just slept funny. With her eyes open? I bolted upright and called out to her.

“Miss? Miss?”

I had no idea what her name was. “Miss, are you all right?”

No response. She didn’t blink. Just continued to stare out to sea.

To buy her book, go here:

Amazon Kindle



Author Bio:

As a full time mom, a teacher, a businesswoman, a paralegal student, a travel addict, and diver, Karen Robbins has had a wealth of experiences that contribute to her story ideas and speaking topics. In 1987, she sold her first written piece for publication in Standard, a Sunday School take-home paper. Since then she has published numerous articles and essays in a variety of publications including several regional and national magazines and written columns for a local newspaper and an online women’s magazine. Karen has been a contributing author to many compilation books including the Chicken Soup For The Soul series. She coauthored A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts and A Scrapbook of Motherhood Firsts. Earlier novels include Divide The Child, In A Pickle, and Murder Among The Orchids, (book one of the Casey Stengel mystery series).

Connect with Karen here:


Blog: Writer’s Wanderings,

Facebook page:



Karen is giving away a copy of Death Amony the Deckchairs. The giveaway is only available to U.S. addresses. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You may enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.
(It's not too late to go back and leave a comment on yesterday's post)


Happy Reading!
Caroline Brown


karenk said...

thanks for the chance to read this mystery

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Karen said...

karenk, Thanks for stopping by and taking an interest in my novel!

apple blossom said...

title caught my attention. sounds interesting

ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

Karen said...

Apple Blossom, title catching your interest is music to my ears. That's the first thing that attracts me to a book too. Thanks for stopping by.

sm said...

I love cruises and to read about a murder on a deck chair, while out at sea, right beside me! wow! Love to win. sharon, CA

sm said...

uh oh, forgot my email address wileygreen1(at)yahoo(dot)com
sharon, CA

Merry said...

A cruise with a mystery sound like a perfect summer read. Please add me!
Worthy2bpraised at gmail dot com

Karen said...

Thanks for your enthusiasm sm and Merry! Settle into a lounge chair somewhere and dig in to the mystery :-)

ann said...

I love reading mysteries and this one sounds like a summer read for me thanks

Linda Kish said...

Sounds like a fun book. I look forward to reading it.

lkish77123 at gmail dot com

KayM said...

I loved the excerpt! Deck Among the Deckchairs sounds like a good book. I look forward to reading it.
may_dayzee (at) yahoo (dot) com

Jo said...

Love the title of the book. It sounds like such a good read.

azladijo (at)aol (dot) com

Patricia Bradley said...

Would love to win Karen's book! pat at pbradley dot com

Karen said...

Ann, Linda, KayM, Patricia, you all are so encouraging with your comments. Thanks so much! Good luck.

nylnestill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nylnestill said...

I was pleased to hear that god is Robbins' mentor and her greatest influence.

Karen said...

nylnestill, Thank you for your kind words. No one is more pleased than I.

Veronica Sternberg said...

I would love to win! shopgirl152nykiki(at)yahoo(dot)com

Anonymous said...

Hi Karen. Your book sounds good and your life very interesting. Can't imagine traveling so much and all over the world. I would love to read this Mystery of yours. Caroline for this interview. Please put my name in the jackpot. GOD bless you both.
MAXIE mac262(at)me(dot)com

Jo said...

I really do want to read this book. The title sounds so interesting!


Karen said...

Maxie and Veronica, Thanks for stopping by. Good luck!

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