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T.K. Sheils

September 2006 -- Amber Quill, ebook and print

In this flashback to the first of the Hunter Knox adventures, Hunter reveals to Melonie (in bed, of course) how he became Hunter Knox and who Lorraine Who Wasn't was. It all took place, he explains, aboard the HMS Hephaestus, a ship that has sunk a dozen times while under the command of Captain Agropoulos. In it we meet such memorable characters as First Purser Thougg Pfistic and the very dead Velbig Fossage, corpse about town, who manages to get himself bludgeoned, stabbed, strangled, poisoned, shot and variously murdered including being blown up. Nearly everybody, therefore, becomes a suspect, including Lorraine Who Wasn't and the question becomes not one of Whodunit but Whodunitlast. A typically bizarre Hunter Knox mystery, which also includes the first appearance of beloved preacher T. Keenly Shureglow and his rendition of "The Heavenly Ladder."

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Reviews for 50 WAYS TO KILL YOUR LOVER...

Reviewed by *Kevin R. Tipple*

"The Hephaestus had never been a lucky ship. In fact, its fate was probably sealed when it was first christened the Oedipus and sailed under a captain who managed to keep his legal blindness a secret until he ran the ship aground." So opens this very quirky novel from Terry Sheils.

Ami Figuerino, amply endowed fitness instructor on board the HMS Hephaestus, finds an anonymous naked man dead in one of the lockers in the ship's fitness salon. Although he has been bludgeoned, strangled, hung upside-down and stabbed with a pair of scissors still stuck in his chest, all Ami notices is that he has one of her towels firmly imbedded in his mouth.

On orders of Captain Agropulous, a search is begun among the passengers and crew to discover the dead man's identity -- using a photograph of Ami paired with the deceased wearing nothing but a strategically placed towel. During the course of the search for the deceased's identity and a probable stowaway, unemployed actor Hunter Knox volunteers to help crack the case. He is allowed free access to all areas of the ship, providing him with the opportunity to flirt, toss about bad puns, and generally apply his well-meaning goodwill to solve the case.

Humor is a very subjective thing, and this was my first exposure to the Hunter Knox series, in which humor is the driving force and the mystery itself is a secondary issue. The best hypothetical example that comes to mind is a cross between the old TV show Colombo and the cable channel Comedy Central.

This novel is full of jokes and puns from the politically incorrect Knox, many of which are aimed at half-dressed, voluptuous female passengers who either don't get the joke, or turn the comment into sexual repartee of their own. In that context, much of the humor works, and what does not will leave you groaning at the absurdity of it all.

Readers who expect a straightforward murder mystery may be put off by what is more of a journey into the surreal as the author parodies the classic conventional mysteries to varying effect. This parody continues through the ending, in which the thoroughly confused detective assembles all the suspects in an attempt to reveal the killer.

Long-time Hunter Knox fans will know exactly what they are in for and will have many questions answered regarding the beginnings of the series. For the rest, an understanding that this is an extremely offbeat novel is paramount in your consideration of this work.

4 Daggers

Fifteen suspects are seated at the Captain's Table as the oft-resurrected Greek cruise ship, Hephaestus, makes its way through balmy breezes and tropical ports. Poor old Velbig Fossage doesn't make it to the Captain's dinner, however. While under sail, he's been fractured, bludgeoned, stabbed, smothered, poisoned and finally, detonated ! Could one of the old con's 'marks' have caught up with him? Captain Agropoulos is eager to solve the crime and enlists the aid of Wally Mazure, con man and private eye, whose philosophy is "...though you can only be young once, you can be immature all your life." Wally finds himself sharing the bed and bounty of Lorraine Who Wasn't and the two match wits to solve this murder asea. As Wally confesses his true identity (Alias Hunter Knox -- if he remembers correctly) the two embark on an island hopping joyride as they collect clues and unravel the identity of the mysterious Velbig Fossage.

Alias and Lorraine soon discover that the ship's officers and every passenger dining at table 46 has something to hide. Lured to the cruise through a faked contest, not one of the tablemates is who (or what) they appear to be. Alias must draw from his considerable con man's bag of tricks as he becomes not only a stand up comic but a preacher as well.

A rollicking good tale that will leave you second-guessing every colorful character you meet aboard this ship-that-refuses-to-sink. Sheils' fiction is positively lyrical, his characters funny and real. The enchantment of the islands is brought to life as you cruise along on a ship with more aliases than the murdered con man. A wonderfully entertaining read.

Ingrid Taylor -- All About Murder Reviews