After 20 years in the Seattle Police Department, J.P. Beaumont has been put out to pasture. The hero of 14 J.A. Jance crime novels has called it quits after the murder of his partner. But if Beau is out to pasture, what is he doing out at sea? Beau is on the Starfire Breeze, an Alaskan cruise ship, "for one reason and one reason only: to serve as my newlywed grandmother's chaperon."
He's also getting mistaken for a gold-digging gigolo by a band of middle-aged divorcées, led by one Margaret Featherman, who carries an anything-but- featherlight grudge against her ex-husband, successful neurosurgeon Harrison Featherman. Is it just a coincidence (as both claim) that Margaret and Harrison are on the same cruise ship? Or that Margaret is doing her best to seduce one of her husband's patients, who in turn has a crush on the good doctor's daughter?
But the biggest potential coincidence of all is a horrific one, when Margaret is pushed overboard into the icy Alaskan waters. The only witness to the murder is an Alzheimer's victim. But when Beau starts poking around (after mistaken identity issue number two, in which the captain conveniently assumes he's an FBI agent), he discovers that Harrison was himself the target of a conservative medical ethics group with a deadly agenda. As the ship moves slowly amidst the icebergs, Beau finds out that there's a lot hidden under these particular waters.
When Jance concentrates on the mechanics of her story, this Beaumont novel is perfectly entertaining. But when she strives for sentiment (or humor), her style tends toward an aw-shucks ham-handedness. Here's Beau talking about his partner, killed by an abusive ex-husband: "Her sons are orphans, and no amount of psychobabble from Dr. Majors is going to change that. No amount of talking it over and 'getting it out of my system' will alter the fact that Sue won't be there to see her boys graduate from high school or college. She'll never be the mother of the groom at a wedding or have the chance to cradle a newborn grandchild in her arms." If Beau is thinking about coming out of retirement, one hopes he'll stick to the basics. --Kelly Flynn