Review: The Travel Writer

The Travel Writer: A Mystery, Jeff Soloway


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Published June 3rd 2014 by Random House-Alibi

240 pages

Source: NetGalley


From Goodreads…

At a posh South American resort tucked into the lush jungles of the Andes, an American journalist has gone missing, leaving the hotel’s PR agent, Pilar Rojas, with an international incident on her hands. Which is why she offers her ex-lover, travel writer Jacob Smalls, an all-expenses-paid trip to the resort in exchange for a puff piece extolling its virtues—and some behind-the-scenes digging into the disappearance. Intrigued by the prospect of winning Pilar back—and eager, as always, for freebies—Jacob hops the first flight to La Paz, Bolivia.

Although he hasn’t seen Pilar in years, Jacob finds her just as intoxicating as he did when they were together. But from the moment he hits the city’s cobbled streets, Jacob attracts all the wrong kinds of attention. Political flunkies and goons of all stripes try to scare him off the trail, while the missing woman’s not-quite boyfriend insists on shadowing Jacob’s every move. And amid ancient Incan hillside terraces, a world-class hotel conceals a secret that may kill.

 We meet our travel writer, Jacob Smalls, after he’s been called by his ex-girlfriend to a press conference she has put together.  A journalist, who happens to be Jacob’s first editor, has gone missing while visiting a 5 star hotel in Bolivia.  The Bolivian police have given up as have the FBI.  Pilar begs Jacob to come down and help her solve the mystery and save the hotel.

Jacob suffers no delusions about his career and we learn he is basically a travel writer so he can vacation for free.  This is a lifestyle I can get behind!  I liked that Jacob did not take his life too seriously, but then almost nothing seemed too serious in this book.  There was just too much effort put into making Jacob smart-assed and funny, to actually make him funny.  He’s looking for the missing woman to try to win Pilar’s heart and for the glory of it all; not out of the kindness of his heart.

I think this story had a lot of potential, but I would have enjoyed it more had it been a darker mystery and not tried so hard to be comedic.  Kenny, the editor’s want-to-be boyfriend, was just annoying – not funny.  That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy some of the humor at times, but it was not enough to carry this book.  I did like the conclusion of the mystery itself-not what I was expecting when I start reading!

I have no familiarity with Bolivia, so I liked reading about someplace different.  I enjoyed the descriptions of La Paz and of the surrounding areas.  I appreciated how Soloway brought the native people and customs into the book and how they interacted with this 5 star resort hotel built for foreigners.   I really liked the premise of this new series, that of exploring the world with a veteran traveler and finding mysteries.  I hope Jacob mellows a bit in his next adventure.

2.5 stars

Thank you Random House-Atria and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion.

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