Paige and her joyful Aunt Glo have learned that the home they inherited comes with a magical library. They put together a book club group of loveable kooks to explore the magic. They’ve recovered from their first book journey, and they all agree on their next book which takes place on a cruise ship bound for Hawaii. Problem is, they were so excited about the cruising idea that they didn’t read the entire blurb on the back of the book. (“It was entirely too long,” explains Zell.) Once on the ship, they meet a charming and likeable man who blends seamlessly into their motley group. Too bad they don’t know why he’s so scarce during the day but shows up to join them every evening for dinner, drinks, and a show. When a dead body shows up on board, their new friend is labeled a suspect. Can they help him out by finding the real murderer? Or is he the real murderer? The book club will need to solve the case to get off the ship, out of the book, and back to their home.
“Here’s one with a cruise ship on the cover,” yelled Forrest. “It’s called Havoc in Hawaii.”
“Yes!” squealed Sebastian, doing a little jig. “I loooove Hawaii!”
Zell marched up to Forrest and he handed her the book. She began to scan the back cover and mumble, “Cruise … adventure … tropical islands …”
“Ah. The blurb is too long. I’m sure this will do!” She flipped the book open and before we could stop her, she began to read.
“Zell! Stop reading!” Vee yelled. “We don’t even know what the mystery is about yet—”
It was too late. The globe turned golden until it shone like the sun. It began to spin, faster and faster, the speed increasing by the moment. Sparks began to shoot from it, and the room slowly filled with fog until we could no longer see. In the quiet fog-filled room, Million’s thunderous gasp of a string of bad words made us all laugh.
As the dense fog continued to fill the library, we all became perfectly still and silent. Waiting. Wondering. What would be next? The silence finally gave way to the excited chatter of a crowd around us. Once the air was cleared, we found ourselves in a boarding line, heading onto a majestic, glittering cruise ship. Its name was painted across the bow: Serendipity of the Seas.
The air was warm, humid, and smelled of tropical flowers. Beyond the glass enclosed walkway that snaked back and forth toward the ship we could see palm trees and blue skies.
“Looks like we’re embarking right in Hawaii,” said Zell.
“Most likely Honolulu,” added Million.
“Probably Pier 2,” said Zell with a look of superiority.
“Looks busy today. I’d say we’re using the alternate terminal at Pier 11.” Million looked smug, as if he’d just won that round of their game of one-upmanship.
“This is so exciting!” squealed Sebastian. “And look at my outfit!” He did a spin showing off his crisp khaki trousers, an aloha shirt airbrushed with colorful bird-of-paradise flowers, and beige espadrilles.
We had all arrived in clothing that wasn’t ours but was suitable for the trip. The only person who looked perfectly normal was Moonbeam, except that the type of flowers displayed on her kaftan were more tropical than hippie. Even Forrest was decked out in a Hawaiian print shirt, though his was teen-appropriate, worn open over a white t-shirt, and set off with a stylish pair of sunglasses.
“Isn’t anyone weirded out about our clothes changing?” asked Vee.
“Hold up, Vee-Vee,” said Frank, sporting a floral print scarf around his neck. “You’re okay with plopping into a mystery book and solving a murder case, but you think it’s weird that your clothes have changed?”
“If you put it that way.” She shrugged.
Glo called out over her shoulder. “We’re almost to the front of the line!” She was leading the group and trotting so fast we could barely keep up with her. Her beach-print sundress was fluttering in the breeze behind her. My aunt loved adventures and having fun, and this was certainly both.
As soon as we were over the gangway the crowd split into two directions. Photo stations were set up on both sides with a screen shot of a Hawaiian beach, the Serendipity of the Seas cruise ship in the background, and a banner over the top saying “Welcome Aboard!” A photographer’s assistant was placing a lei around each passenger.
“Wait up, Glo! Veer to the right!” Zell shouted, then she turned toward us. “You need to pick your photographer wisely.”
“Yeah,” said Million, nodding in agreement. “Cuz they charge an arm and a leg for those photos, but you can’t resist buying them.”
“You’ve got the millions, so spend a few,” laughed Sebastian.
“Who told you I got millions?” Our newest member turned to Sebastian with a scowl.
“As I was saying,” Zell said. “You want the best one. See that guy on the left. He’s boring and bland. Looks like he’d rather be somewhere else. People are barely smiling for him. His assistant is passing out wilted leis. Now, that guy on the right – he’s the life of the party. Even his assistant is doing a little dance to the music. He’s joking, he’s talking. Everybody’s laughing. Makes for a great photo.”
“Plus, he looks like Mr. Bean. Makes you laugh before he even opens his mouth,” said Moonbeam.
“Who’s Mr. Bean, Mom?” asked Forrest.
“Google him, honey.”
A moment later Forrest chuckled. “He does look like Mr. Bean!”
“Hey! You have cell service. Good deal,” said Vee. “Means a contemporary setting, right, Zell?”
“Yeppers!” Zell nodded vigorously. “… as far as I know.” Her voice faded off at the end.
We were at the front of the line where Glo was eagerly waiting. “Picture time!” She was bouncing on the toes of her cork-wedge sandals – a pair she’d never buy for herself, though she was obviously enjoying them.
“Howdy folks!” called the photographer, Mr. Bean’s twin, with a name tag that said Grant Perkins, USA. “Welcome aboard!”
Excerpt from Vampires and Villains by Elizabeth Pantley. Copyright 2022 by Elizabeth Pantley. Reproduced with permission from Elizabeth Pantley. All rights reserved.
Elizabeth Pantley says that writing her serveral Mystery and Magic book series is the most fun she’s ever had at work. Fans of the series say her joy is evident through the engaging stories she tells. Elizabeth is also the international bestselling author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution and twelve other books for parents. Her books have been published in over twenty languages. She lives in the Pacific Northwest, a beautiful inspiration for her enchanted worlds.