The Corpse with the Crystal Skull, by Cathy Ace

July 1, 2020 Blog Tours, Book Reviews 10 ★★★★½

The Corpse with the Crystal Skull, by Cathy Ace

The Corpse with the Crystal Skull, by Cathy AceThe Corpse with the Crystal Skull by Cathy Ace
Series: Cait Morgan #9
Published by Four Tails Publishing on June 29, 2020
Genres: Cozy Mystery, Mystery
Pages: 236
Format: Kindle or ebook
Source: the author
Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble
Add to Goodreads

four-half-stars
Also in this series: The Corpse with the Golden Nose, The Corpse with the Emerald Thumb, The Corpse with the Garnet Face
Also by this author: The Corpse with the Golden Nose, The Corpse with the Emerald Thumb, The Case of the Dotty Dowager, The Case of the Missing Morris Dancer, The Corpse with the Garnet Face

Welsh Canadian globetrotting sleuth, and professor of criminal psychology, Cait Morgan, is supposed to be “celebrating” her fiftieth birthday in Jamaica with her ex-cop husband Bud Anderson. But when the body of the luxury estate’s owner is discovered locked inside an inaccessible tower, Cait and her fellow guests must work out who might have killed him – even if his murder seems impossible. Could the death of the man who hosted parties in the 1960s attended by Ian Fleming and Noël Coward be somehow linked to treasure the legendary Captain Henry Morgan might have buried at the estate? Or to the mission Bud and his secret service colleagues have been sent to the island to undertake?

I received a review copy of this book from the author.

Pirate treasure, spies, old grudges… and murder most foul

Cait Morgan brings her eidetic memory, analytical mind, and psychologist’s insight to bear when a Jamaican holiday turns out to be anything but festive… and rather more of a busman’s holiday for Bud and his “retired” friends and colleagues, Jack and John. When the host of their holiday rental — an estate once owned by the privateer-cum-Lieutenant Governor, Sir Henry Morgan — is found dead in a locked room, the trio, plus Cait, Jack’s wife Sheila, and John’s much-younger girlfriend Lottie, must try to figure out who killed him and how. There’s also the fraught question of whether Freddie’s death was personal, or perhaps related either to Capt. Morgan’s fabled lost treasure or to the men’s mission.

Cait struggles a little in this novel, which I found refreshing given her usual competence and self-confidence. Her wits and deductions are as sharp as ever, but she is still a bit shaken by events from a previous novel, and she’s facing a situation in which several people she knows and trusts could have had a motive to kill Freddie. Cait’s tendency to analyze people, and her extraordinary ability to do so, cuts both ways: it makes her an insightful criminal profiler, but outside of her marriage, she doesn’t really connect to people on a personal level. That tendency leads to several awkward and sometimes painful situations in this book, but there are also signs that perhaps she is willing to grow a little in that area. (If I had to guess, I’d say that Cait’s Myers-Briggs type is either INTJ or ISTJ, well-balanced between iNtuition and Sensing, but waaaay over on the T side of the Thinking-Feeling spectrum.)

As I’ve come to expect from Cathy Ace, the mystery is complex and intriguing, the pacing is excellent, and the solution is clever and mostly unexpected. (As a sop to my mystery-reader pride, I hasten to add that my suspicions did lean at least partially in the right directions, and I had figured out a few minor bits and pieces before the denouement.) Ms. Ace always “plays fair” with her readers; if you pay attention, all the clues are there, but it’s even odds whether you’ll pick up the right ones, or put them together in the right order. Meatier than most of today’s light cozy mysteries, The Corpse with the Crystal Skull and other Cait Morgan novels are traditional mysteries where the puzzle takes center stage, and violence is never glorified: stories that will appeal to afficionados of Agatha Christie and other writers of mystery’s Golden Age.

Ace’s descriptions of Jamaica make the island come alive; I could feel the evening breeze and the sultry afternoon heat, hear the waves, see the flowers and the swift and glorious sunsets. This is, however, more the Jamaica of tourists and wealthy (white) foreign residents than the ordinary citizen’s experience; the latter is mostly out of sight, and Jamaica’s legacy of slavery and colonialism is only touched on here and there, except in the history of Sir Henry Morgan. Enjoy the descriptions of the island’s beauty, but bear in mind that you’re only seeing part of the picture, as it were.

All in all, I found The Corpse with the Crystal Skull a most enjoyable evening’s reading — it kept me turning the pages until nearly 2:30 am! If this is your first introduction to Cait Morgan, it can certainly be read as a standalone, as can all the books in the series; you’ll find references to events in previous books, but anything you need to know is explained, usually as part of Cait’s ruminations. (The book is told in first person, from Cait’s POV.) On the other hand, if you prefer to follow the main character’s personal life in chronological order, I suggest starting with book #1, The Corpse with the Silver Tongue.

You can check out my reviews of books #2, #3, and #7, as well as the first two books of Cathy Ace’s other series featuring the WISE Enquiries Agency; see the title links below the book information at the top of this page.)

Blog tour participants

four-half-stars

About Cathy Ace

Welsh Canadian mystery author Cathy Ace is the creator of The Cait Morgan Mysteries. Born, raised and educated in Wales, Cathy enjoyed a successful career in marketing and training across Europe for twenty years before migrating to Vancouver, Canada. There she taught on MBA and Undergraduate marketing programmes at various Universities for a decade. Her eclectic tastes in art, music, food and drink have been developed during her decades of extensive travels, which she continues, whenever possible. Now a full-time author, Cathy and her husband are keen gardeners who enjoy being helped out around their rural acreage by their chocolate Labradors.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • COYER Quarantine Edition (2020)

10 Responses to “The Corpse with the Crystal Skull, by Cathy Ace”

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      Then the titles are doing their job! 😉 In this case, it’s literal, although not quite in the way I had anticipated.

    • Cathy Ace

      Hello Nicole – my apologies for not replying sooner…I’ve been having a few technical difficulties here! As Lark said, I’m so pleased you’re finding the titles to be “intriguing”. They are supposed to be just that…LOL! Here’s hoping you’re intrigued enough to try one 🙂

    • Cathy Ace

      Thanks for your comment, Kimberly. Lark’s review tells me she “got it” – and that makes me feel so pleased! I hope her words encourage you to give my work a go! 🙂

      • Lark_Bookwyrm

        Thank you, Cathy! Kimberly, I’ll second Cathy’s encouragement; this is a really good series with a smart, professional middle-aged protagonist. (And heaven knows there is a dearth of those!)