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Pasta Imperfect: A Passport to Peril Mystery    by Maddy Hunter order for
Pasta Imperfect
by Maddy Hunter
Order:  USA  Can
Pocket, 2004 (2004)
Paperback, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Rashmi Srinivas

Maddy Hunter is back with the third in her hilarious Passport to Peril series. Emily Andrew (intrepid travel coordinator and unwitting amateur investigator) finds herself smack-dab in the middle of yet another murder mystery, this time while leading her senior citizen group of Iowans on a cultural trip to Italy. Also on the tour are a bunch of unpublished romance writers who become absolutely cut-throat when a lucrative writing contest is announced.

As usual, a series of misadventures plagues the travelers, beginning with lost luggage. Then their hotel burns to the ground, and finally there's a corpse. Now it's up to Emily to uncover the truth. She's been in this sort of situation before, and is possibly the only one in the entire group who thinks murder instead of accident. But as people keep dying and the body count increasing, Emily's forced to broaden her scope of suspects. Alternately aided and hampered by a plethora of extras (among whom are Emily's geriatric but sexually adventurous grandmother, and her ex-husband who's now a woman named Jackie), can Emily solve the mystery before she herself ends up in the morgue?

Maddy Hunter's engaging style of writing, her light-hearted ability to convey the atmosphere of a package tour and to deliver a challenging murder mystery, make for an enjoyable read. Given the abundance of side characters (hence red herrings), the characterizations are succinct as Hunter playfully captures the essence of a person with a few snappy sentences. Emily's struggles are hilarious, whether she's trying to solve murders, or to rescue her pilfered clothing. Thuogh Emily's romance with her temporarily-amnesiac Swiss lover is briefly touched upon, there's no development in that direction this time.

The solution to the mystery is so improbable as to provoke laughter from the captivated reader. I recommend Pasta Imperfect as a jocular and witty read that will help a reader pass the time, especially while traveling.

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