Moments Before Dawn
by Irwin L. Hinds
Trafford Publishing

"People go missing from cruises on a regular basis. Some jump to their deaths, some are pushed, while others fall overboard because of carelessness or intoxication."

In the spirit of mysteries like Murder on the Orient Express, or Hitchcock's suspense filled Lifeboat, a self-contained backdrop can prove an ideal setting for a story surrounding money and murder. In Moments Before Dawn, the primary plot plays out aboard a luxury cruise ship where the twofold elements of confinement and expanse serve the characters well to keep them both hidden, and at a distance.

Early on we learn that Zelda Fargo is the primary caregiver and adopted stepdaughter of Demetrius Fargo, a wealthy, yet miserly businessman who amassed his fortune via an auto repair partnership with his cousin, Bartholomew. Both are at odds about selling the business. Quickly we see the ship's corridors and cabins; dining rooms and dance clubs, pool and casino become a playground for a growing cast of characters. Propelled by the narrative, Hinds lets us know they are not all traveling for a vacation getaway. Interestingly, as the intended victim in a murder-for-hire scenario, the elder Fargo is not physically introduced to readers until well into the book. Instead the focus turns to those who want him out of the picture. Enter the spoiled, parasitic, biological daughter who has contracted two men to do the job. Hinds often advances chapters by alternating focus on the rival siblings. As characters let down their guard, we see personal problems and agendas surface. These cover a wide range, from secret identities to marital infidelity, binge drinking to money extortion.

Hinds uses dramatic irony, as character's thoughts are italicized to give readers an inside perspective. Information is the key to suspense, and the author easily makes readers privy to knowledge withheld from the characters. To this point, neither sister is aware the other is on board. This device heightens audience awareness and draws us into a thickening plot. The final wrap-up offers more new evidence that changes expectations. Ultimately in this engaging tale of murder at sea, readers will realize that even the best laid plans can go astray, for both the criminal and non-criminal element alike.

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