A Shakespeare in the Catskills Mystery by Elizabeth J. Duncan
Review: Charlotte Fairfax, the costume designer for a regional theater group based at a small hotel in the Catskills, finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation when it is learned her fabric shears were used to kill the lead actress in a production of "Romeo and Juliet", in Untimely Death, the first mystery in this series by Elizabeth J. Duncan.
Charlotte has a new assistant for this year's slate of plays, Aaron Jacobs, a student designer and nephew of the hotel's owner. And it turns out that he has a long, and not very pleasant, history with the victim, Lauren Richmond. Worse, he was absent at the time of the murder and has no alibi for where he was or what he was doing at the time. Charlotte has an intuitive sense about people, and can't believe Aaron is guilty, and yet she doesn't really know him and also senses there is more about Aaron than meets the eye. When the aging, but also well-known Shakespearian actor Brian Prentice, Lauren's current paramour, and Charlotte's former fiancÚ, is found in the woods nearly dead, suspicion once again falls on someone involved with the production. But what could anyone possibly gain by killing off the actors in a regional theater group?
The author takes a kind of paint-by-numbers approach to the opening entry of this series, with a lead character — the amateur sleuth — being a bit of a loner with a checkered past, who is currently dating a local police officer, allowing her to be involved with the investigation if not actually be a part of it. The murder mystery isn't demanding — the whodunit being never in doubt — but is nicely structured as it plays out. The cast of characters is generally appealing and the setting nearly ideal for an English manor house/village-style of mystery (even if it is set in upstate New York). The characters (and, for that matter, the setting) aren't so well developed here that there isn't considerable room to expand on both in future entries in this series, and that is probably the best aspect of it, that readers will want to learn more about both next time. A more interesting murder for Charlotte to investigate would be most appreciated next time, but the good news is that readers will be looking forward to a next time.
Acknowledgment: Crooked Lane Books provided an eARC of Untimely Death for this review.
Review Copyright © 2015 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
A Brush with Death
Minotaur Books (Hardcover), July 2010
ISBN-13: 9780312622824; ISBN-10: 0312622821
Location(s) referenced in Untimely Death: Upstate New York
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Untimely Death by Elizabeth J. Duncan — A Shakespeare in the Catskills Mystery
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: November 2015
List Price: $24.99
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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