Not even pneumonia can deter independent and headstrong senior sleuth Henrietta O'Dwyer Collins when the conflicts of America's upper class turn from querulous to dangerous. In Carolyn Hart's latest installment of her award-winning "Henrie O" series, RESORT TO MURDER, our heroine is commissioned to Bermuda to chaperone her grandchildren to their father's wedding.
Lloyd Drake, Henrie O's ex-son-in-law, plans to marry the beautiful but painfully insecure Connor Bailey. Stiff and a bit misguided, Lloyd wants to marry Connor at the exact resort where he met her, but also the resort where, only a year prior, a past admirer of Connor's was killed in a strange fall from the hotel's scenic tower. Upon arrival, what looks like a ghost begins to appear irregularly at the tower and then, in a morbid twist, a staff member at the hotel turns up dead from another "accidental" fall. RESORT produces a busload of suspects, including some remaining suitors of Connor's, a jealous husband, quibbling stepchildren, a very suspicious innkeeper, and according to the Bermuda police, Henrie O, herself.
The tone is set for another Hart page-turner that always leaves you guessing until the very last morsel. What I find most intriguing about a Hart novel is who she chooses for characters and how she develops them. She always portrays regular people, maybe richer than most, but everyday families with the usual squabbles. The murders that take place in her books are the extreme product of the worst in people but provide an opportunity for some other characters to show true integrity. Hart also appears to be relaying a message about women, too. Connor is beautiful, but her beauty does not make her happy, just skittish and annoying, and she eventually sews a dark fate. Henrie O, in contrast, is a fading beauty whose intellect is her most revered feature. This contrast is repeated in many of Hart's novels, inciting readers to cheer for the smart chick and pity the vapid beauty, a complete 180 from Hollywood's attempt at vice versa.
RESORT TO MURDER is a little grimmer than some of Hart's previous novels, which are sprinkled with Henrie O's humorous retorts at the sexist and ageist, but the change in mood does not diminish the puzzle she poses from page one on, and it sets this book apart with an effervescent originality that serial readers so crave.
Reviewed by Laura Donnelly on March 5, 2002