Title: Death Plans a Perfect Trip
Author: Mary Jane Maffini
Published on: 17 May 2022
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Professional Organizer Charlotte Adams is back!
It is not unusual for Esme Adams, Charlotte’s mother and bestselling author, to dash off overseas, without any warning. But when Esme misses her routine Tuesday call with her daughter, Charlotte wonders if her mother is all right. The memories are all coming back. Like a child’s worse nightmare.
Charlotte remembers the time when she and her mother had to get on a bus in the middle of the night and reach Lola’s house. Charlotte also remembers the Barbie backpack she had to leave behind. Her mother bought her a Hello Kitty backpack as a replacement. A getaway backpack always ready in the closet – after all, one never know when they might have to be on the run again…
Before Charlotte could begin to guess where to start looking, her house is ransacked and set on fire. She and Jack have to go into hiding as they are being followed and targeted. Before things could get worse, Charlotte and Jack set off to Europe, in search of Esme Adams and put an end to the dark past that has come to haunt her once again.
Death Plans a Perfect Trip is the sixth book in Mary Jane Maffini’s Charlotte Adams Professional Organizer Mystery series.
Having read the first five books of this series last year, I was eagerly waiting to know what’s next for Charlotte and Jack. In the fifth book, Charlotte realizes she’s as much as in love with Jack as he is with her.
The story begins with a flashback of a young woman escaping from someone. She has her young daughter in tow. The daughter’s hair is cut short and she’s dressed in a boy’s clothes while the woman has dyed her hair and put on layers of clothing to look fat. They are on the run. Charlotte wakes up drenched in sweat. She’s been getting these flashbacks recently. She also reminisces of the times she and her mother had been ready to run if things got worse again.
Charlotte still keeps her Hello Kitty backpack in her closet – credit cards in a different name, passport, a wad of cash, some first aid stuff, and a set of clothes. Esme Adams hasn’t been answering to Charlotte’s calls or replying to her messages. Charlotte’s calls to Esme’s assistant Glenda goes unanswered while her agent Sid is furious for Esme’s delay in submitting the latest manuscript.
Charlotte goes to Pepper’s house as she wants some help in finding her her mother. She’s just about to leave when she receives a call from Jack. Charlotte and Jack have been friends since they were five years old. Jack is Charlotte’s landlord and (now) boyfriend. She returns to find her home completely ransacked. Every furniture, closets, décor, and utensils have been smashed to pieces. The police suggest she and Jack move to a different place until things settle down.
Jack and Charlotte go into hiding in Woodbridge as their lives are at stake. Charlotte does not know why though. The only memories she has of her childhood are the emergency backpacks and fleeing from a city in the middle of the night dressed as a boy. Charlotte and Jack reach Europe hunting for clues that might lead them to Esme. Charlotte learns about her mother’s shadowy past – criminal ties, bank heist, and much more.
This is not doubt one of the best books in this series. Correction. Best of the best books in this series – I have enjoyed all the previous books. I did not expect the shadowy past or the explosive truth about Esme’s true identity. This felt more like a spy thriller than a cozy mystery.
The mystery and suspense are at an all-time high, especially in the second half of the book (when Charlotte and Jack reach Europe.) Jack is at his usual adorable self – always hungry and looking to grab a bite or two while sleuthing – while Charlotte’s anxiety levels are at a maximum. Cannot blame her though, the poor thing learns a lot about her mother’s secretive past and feels like she’s being hit by a freight train.
Mary Jane Maffini is a master storyteller. I was hooked on to the story until the end. Twists after twists kept me guessing for more. The ending is, my goodness, surprising and totally shocking. In a way, there was a bit of closure for a few people but I wonder how this particular ‘closure’ might affect Charlotte. Maybe I will know more about it in the next book.
Though this book can be read as a standalone, I highly recommend you to read the whole series. This is one of my favorite cozy mystery series – the kind I will be following till the end. If you love quirky cozy mysteries with a dash of nail-biting adventure, you might want to give Death Plans a Perfect Trip by Mary Jane Maffini a try.
I received an ARC from Beyond the Page Publishing and NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased opinion.