In Apple Strudel Alibi by H.Y. Hanna, Gemma Rose is upset to learn that her boyfriend, Devlin, has to work in his job as the top detective for the Oxford CID and can’t go on their planned trip to Malta. So she finds herself changing her plans to go to Vienna to receive an award for the best scones in England. When she arrives at the airport, she discovers that the four senior women collectively known as “the Old Biddies” are traveling with her and have reserved a suite with Gemma in the new hotel opened by Sophia, a close childhood friend of Gemma’s mother. At the hotel, they meet ? Wagner, a lifestyle critic notorious for his cruel, scathing reviews, and he schedules a dinner date with Glenda, one of the Old Biddies. But when Glenda goes downstairs to meet Wagner, he doesn’t show up, causing Glenda to look for him in the music room of the hotel. With a scream, Glenda comes rushing out after having discovered Wagner lying dead on the concrete beneath the balcony of the music room.
The police soon declare the death a suicide after having found what passes as a suicide note. However, when Gemma sneaks into the office where the police are keeping the note, she notices it seems weird and doesn’t end with a complete sentence. The Old Biddies especially feel certain that this is a murder and lure Gemma into their crazy schemes to investigate.
Apple Strudel Alibi is the eighth book in the Oxford Tea Room series, and Hanna does not disappoint as she continues this incredibly fun and clever series. The plot is creative, though it doesn’t have as much depth and twists and turns as the previous seven books. However, the standard set by Hanna was so high that the mystery is still creative and well done. Further, the setting details and fun scenes make the book a great delight. One of the highlights is a visit to an Austrian spa with the Old Biddies, who are as excited about all the coed nudity around them as Gemma is horrified.
The characters continue to come to life as in all of Hanna’s books. Besides Gemma, who narrates the book and has a fun personality, especially in the horror she feels at some of the schemes of the Old Biddies. These octogenarians are the highlight of the book, with wild ideas and nosiness in everything that they get into. The “guest characters” provide a lot of fun as well. The Chinese family, consisting of Mr. and Mrs. Chow and their 8-year-old daughter, Mei Mei, seem sadly realistic based upon my own experiences working with Chinese international students. Mrs. Chow does not like her daughter’s amazing gift for art and love of animals because she is determined that Mei Mei will become a successful lawyer, and art and animals do not figure into those plans. The other characters have as much flair as the Chow family.
Pearl Hewitt performs the audiobook of Apple Strudel Alibi and does another fantastic job that brings the book to life. Her voices for the characters have plenty of diversity, and she handles the accents well. I was especially impressed that the British narrator is so successful with the American accent of Randy, a horse showman from Florida. Few British narrators handle American accents very believable, usually making them Texan. Hewitt further does a good job at voicing the expressions of Muesli, Gemma’s mischievous cat, who goes with Gemma to Vienna.
I had a lot of fun listening to Apple Strudel Alibi, which has a creative plot and an especially interesting setting. This includes the famous dancing Royal Lipizzaner horses, a spa where men and women mingle sans any clothing, and secret passages in the mansion turned into a hotel. The Old Biddies particularly add to the delightful flavor of the book. I give this fun book five stars.
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