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Murder on a Mississippi Steamboat by Leighann Dobbs (book review)


Goodreads Synopsis

A relaxing cruise down the Mississippi on the Miss Delta Belle steamboat turns to tragedy when celebrity Delilah Dove falls from the deck and is swallowed by the river faster than you can say ‘man overboard!’

It’s touted as a tragic accident, but guests Miss Nora Marsh and her wily great-aunt Julia know a murder when they see one. Can they get justice for Delilah and crack the case without alerting the murderer to their suspicions?

As Nora and Julia hunt for clues it emerges that nearly everyone had a reason to want Delilah dead. And that’s bad news for the two sleuths—who want to solve the case pronto, before Mississippi police chief and Aunt Julia’s nemesis Artemis Leonard comes on board at the next port to launch the official investigation. She’s not letting him get the credit if she can help it.

With multiple suspects and a series of mysterious thefts onboard—not to mention the distractingly handsome Max Lawton turning Nora’s head—this is shaping up to be one tough case to crack. What started as a gentle river voyage is far from plain sailing.

Thursday Quotables Meme

A cosy mystery set in the 1920s, with an interesting pair of amateur sleuths. Julia March, an elderly lady, who’s a very famous mystery writer – in disguise, since she must sign her books with a male name, so nobody knows she is actually the author. And Nora, her niece, who’s an accomplished psychologist, able to read people by their reaction and body language.

Thursday Quotables Murder on a Mississippi Steamboat

It’s a good, fun couple, with amusing dynamics, though maybe a tad on the usual side. I mean, the rich, eccentric old lady is hardly unheard of, especially in cosy mysteries, though I liked the twist of the unacknowledged writer.
It is a relaxing, easy read, with an unusual setting (the Mississippi steamboat) and an adequate historical rendition.

The cast is varied and sufficiently mysterious, and the mystery was nicely conducted, though I found the ending a bit lame.
It was, in my opinion, a bit too much on the sleuthing side. I mean, there was nothing in the book but the mystery—no personal development, not even in the main characters of Julia and Nora. I learned nothing about them apart from the essentials. There was no dynamics among the other characters apart what was needed for the mystery. Which is a pity, in my opinion. I do like my mysteries to be true mysteries, but I also like to have something around them, other agendas and events that make the story more like life.

I’m a needy reader, you know?
But on the whole, it was a great read for a summer day. I enjoyed it.

Murder on a Mississippi Steamboat

An Excerpt

She started off to her right and Nora followed. The hallway was so narrow there was hardly room to walk beside each other. Aunt Julia tried a few of the doors along the way – all locked.

Mercifully, the stifling hallway didn’t go on for long. After about a hundred feet it opened up to a small deck. Max Lawton leaned against a railing, a cigar in his mouth, smoke drifting out into the air.

“Are you ladies lost?” He flicked ash into the churning water below and Nora craned her neck to look past him, wandering where Oxley was.

“Oh dear, yes we are. Isn’t this the floor our cabins are on?” A flustered Aunt Julia turned to Nora. She could win an acting award.

“No, Auntie, I told you this isn’t but you’re too stubborn to listen.” Nora smiled inwardly at her aunt’s frown at the word stubborn. If Julia was going to put her on the spot, at least she could get a dig in.

Julia sidled over to the railing, looking out at the passing scenery. She craned her neck, perhaps looking for a body floating behind the boat. “Well, it is lovely here though. A nice private spot.”

Max was watching Julia and not in the affectionate way one usually watches a kooky old lady. “I think you want the deck above.”

“Yes, yea, of course.” Aunt Julia turned from the railing and waved a cloud of smoke from her face. “We’ll just run along, then. Nice meeting you Mr. …” Aunt Julia raised a brow at him.

“Lawton, Max Lawton.”

“Yes, well then, lovely to make your acquaintance. I’m Julia March and this is my grand-nice, Nora.”

They all shook hands. His was surprisingly warm for a potential cold-blooded killer, but his eyes weren’t. There was something dark and wary about them.

Nora grabbed Julia by the elbow. “Now come along, Aunty, you know that you need to be good of I’ll have o put you back in the institution.”

Julia gave her a disapproving look but didn’t say anything. As Nora led her aunt away, she smile to herself. With a character like Aunt Julia, she had to get her jabs in when she could.


  • Margot Kinberg
    Posted July 9, 2020 at 14:24

    I’m glad you found a lot to like here, Sarah. It does sound like a good premise for a mystery, and the protagonists sound interesting. But I agree with you about the need for character development. Fully rounded characters are so important to a strong story, aren’t they?

    • Post Author
      Posted July 9, 2020 at 14:49

      Indeed. And when there’s more in a mystery other than the mystery, it feels a lot more like life. There’s mor eto enjoy, if you know what I mean.

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