By MIKE MORTENSEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
Who doesn't like a murder mystery? A well crafted whodunnit is more than a good read. It's an opportunity for a reader, as they turn from page to page and progress from chapter to chapter, to play detective, and try to figure out who the killer is and what the killer's motive was.
So, if you like to read and at the same time play the sleuth, then pick up a copy of "A Timeshare in France," the eighth in the George Mason detective stories written by Laconia author J.D. Mallinson.
In "A Timeshare in France," Mason, a no-nonsense, methodical Scotland Yard inspector, is assigned to figure out what has happened to Maxine Walford, who quite by happenstance had accepted the job of bursar at a boy's boarding school in England's Lake District.
But before she is able to start her new job, Maxine makes the acquaintance of one Rosalinda Kramer, who Maxine befriends while vacationing at her timeshare on the French Riviera. The two meet at a tea room, and later share a dinner at an outdoor cafe, and ultimately have dinner again at the timeshare.
The seemingly innocuous encounters turn out to be quite sinister, and in the end deadly. Both women, we learn, have espionage in their pasts – Maxine with Britain's MI5, the country's domestic and counter-intelligence security agency, and Rosalinda with the Stasi, the former East Germany's notorious secret police.
Mason enters the story after the boarding school reports that the newly hired bursar has disappeared along with 50,000 pounds of the school's money. Mason's boss at Scotland Yard assures the inspector that this is a straightforward case of embezzlement. But alas, that's not the case, as Mason quickly learns after Maxine's half sister tells the inspector that the woman in a photograph presumed to be Maxine is in fact somebody else.
So now the question is who is she, and what's become of her.
Rosalinda turns out to be more than a femme fetale who has been posing as Maxine. She is also a devious gold-digger. She befriends an equally devious Englishman who poses as a retired British naval officer, who entices her with the prospect of marriage, and of course in her sly mind access to his money. But he turns out to to be as unscrupulous and conniving as she and he ends up absconding with the money she has stolen from the boarding school. As they say: No honor among thieves.
If you like unraveling a mystery, then Mallinson has given your "little gray cells" – as Hercule Poirot would say – plenty to think about.
Mallinson builds his story much like a gifted painter is able to paint a captivating landscape – full of color and detail. At times the story reads like a travelogue of the the French seacoast, the countryside of northern England, or the naval seaport of Portsmouth, or the coast of Germany. And be warned, don't read this book if you are trying to stick to a diet, as Mallinson describes many a meal in mouth-watering detail.
Throughout the story Mason manages to put the pieces painstakingly together and in the end is able to collar Rosalinda – hiding out in in a German retreat along with some her onetime Stasi colleagues – and bring her to justice.
Even though the reader is able to deduce by the middle of Chapter 2 that Maxine Walford has most probably met a nasty end, there are enough twists and turns in this story to keep the reader interested until the last page.
With cooler weather approaching and plenty of opportunities to sit by a warm fire, why not curl up with "A Timeshare in France."