"Cheap Trills" by Wendall Thomas

Review by Sharon Marchisello

If you love stories set in exotic locales, you’ll enjoy Cheap Trills by Wendall Thomas. In the wake of Elizabeth Gilbert’s 2007 bestseller, Eat, Pray, Love, visits to Bali became the rage. The protagonist, travel agent Cyd Redondo, who caters to senior vacationers, warns her clients about the hazards of traveling to Indonesia. Not only is the journey long, involving multiple plane changes on air carriers with questionable safety records, the destination is fraught with dangers such as active volcanoes, venomous snakes, crooked cops, kidnappers, pickpockets, and the risk of the death penalty for possession of drugs, endangered animals, or large amounts of cash. And no ADA dictating that establishments make accommodations for disabled guests. Nevertheless, her own mother (Bridget) and two of her friends defy Cyd’s advice and book a trip to Bali with her archrival, Peggy Newsome.

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Right away, things go wrong for the trio. Not only do they experience flight delays, missed connections, and lost luggage, but Peggy confirmed their hotel room for the wrong dates, so Bridget and her friends arrive without reservations. And Bridget becomes a person of interest in the murder of a man she met on the flight. Cyd must fly to Bali to straighten everything out. Fasten your seat belts for a hilarious tale involving poaching of endangered species, treachery, and a touch of romance.

Cyd is a colorful character, with fiery red hair (made bigger in Bali’s humidity), which apparently strikes fear in the hearts of the natives, who regard redheads as demons. She can run in stilettos and refuses to let her Balenciaga out of her sight; that bottomless bag of tricks is filled with MacGyver-like tools that she pulls out at the appropriate time to extract her from tight situations.

Wendall Thomas did a superb job with the setting. I visited Bali once as a cruise-ship stop, but she took me much deeper. I could tell she’d done extensive research on the culture, flora, and fauna, but she weaves it into the plot seamlessly; I never felt like I was getting an info-dump.

Cheap Trills is the fourth book in a series. Although it worked fine as a stand-alone, there are a lot of references to past adventures, and many of the characters who pop in have a history with Cyd and company. I suspect reading the books in order would enrich my appreciation for this one. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed it without the additional backstory.

Highly recommended!

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Sharon Marchisello is the author of two mysteries published by Sunbury Press: Going Home (2014) and Secrets of the Galapagos (2019) as well as a nonfiction book, travel articles, and several short stories. She earned a Masters in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California and is active in Sisters in Crime. She lives in Peachtree City, GA, working on her next novel and doing volunteer work for the Fayette Humane Society and the Fayette County Master Gardeners.
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