Posts Tagged ‘Murder on Cue’

wickedgirlsMerry-go-rounds aside, I’m not generally amused by amusement parks. Something about vertigo and motion sickneness. Still, they can provide great settings for crime stories, from Chris Grabenstein’s fast-paced Jersey Shore/John Ceepak tales to Stephen King’s recent Joyland, a nostalgia-laced ghost story. In Alex Marwood’s provocative The Wicked Girls (Penguin, digital galley), “the Seaside Strangler” finds his latest victim at Funnland, a shabby British amusement park where journalist Kirsty interviews cleaning supervisor Amber about the incident. Both are shocked to recognize the other. Twenty-five years ago, they were Bel and Jade, two 11-year-olds arrested for the murder of a younger girl. After their parole from separate juvenile prisons, they were given new identities and ordered never to see one another.
Marwood deftly splices the present-day hunt for the killer with events of the long-ago day when the two girls — one poor, one privileged — partnered in crime. What really happened then? And how will it affect the now of married-mom Kirsty and everybody’s-friend Amber, both fiercely protective of their loved ones. Although The Wicked Girls reminds me of Laura Lippman’s Every Secret Thing and works by Mo Hayder and Sophie Hannah, that’s a good thing. Plus the story reaches its own twisty climax in the shadows of Funnland.
liestillThe past also comes calling in Julia Heaberlin’s pretzel-plotted Lie Still (Bantam, digital galley), her second psychological suspense novel after the very good Playing Dead. For years, Emily Page has kept the secret that she was date-raped in college. But when pregnant Emily and her police chief husband Mike move from Manhattan to small-town Texas, a stalker apparently follows her to the gossip-mongering community. Then social queen bee Caroline Warwick, who has the goods on everyone, goes missing, and the secrets she’s been keeping come spilling out, threatening Emily, her new friend Misty, and obnoxious mayoral wife Letty Lee Dunn.
I love the way Heaberlin teases readers with cascading revelations about narrator Emily past and present. She’s also an expert with Texas-sized red herrings. I sure didn’t see that killer coming.
roganAlas, I spotted the villain way too soon in Barbara Rogan’s A Dangerous Fiction (Viking, digital galley) an otherwise well-written mystery that’s also a good inside-baseball story of the publishing world.
Literary agent Jo Donovan, the young widow of literary lion Hugh Donovan, is being stalked by “Sam Spade,” a desperate author who’s determined that she read his manuscript and become his muse. Jo brushes him off, but then pranks aimed at ruining her reputation and her business accelerate, and her most prominent client is murdered. At the same time, her mentor Molly is dying, a celebrity biographer is pestering her for Hugh’s papers, and ugly rumors about her lovely marriage are circulating. But Jo’s the Queen of Denial when it comes to her past, both with Hugh and with Tom, the handsome detective she once dated. Even a terrific guard dog like Mingus and an array of faithful friends can’t protect her until she loses the blinkers.
brettA round of applause, please, for the welcome return of actor/sleuth Charles Paris in Simon Brett’s clever A Decent Interval (Severn House, digital galley). It’s been 15 years since the last entry in the smart, witty series, but the character actor is quite his old self once he captures the roles of Ghost/gravedigger in a road production of Hamlet.
Producer Tony Copeland, eying London’s West End, has cast a reality TV star as Hamlet and a pop music princess as Ophelia, much to the dismay of his veteran troupers. Director Ned English envisions the play as taking place in Hamlet’s head, so the set is the interior of a huge skull. But it’s an accident to one lead and the murder of another that trip up rehearsals and give Charles a chance to play detective among cast and crew. Fabulous fun. Encore, please.
oncueAnd speaking of encores, Jane Dentinger’s theatrical mystery series starring Jocelyn O’Roarke is coming back via e-books. The first entry, Murder on Cue (Open Road Integrated Media, digital galley) introduces the ’80s Broadway actress as she’s cast as understudy to Harriet Weldon in old pal Austin Frost’s new play. When Harriet, also the wife of the producer, has a fatal fall in her dressing room, talented Josh is ready to step in. But she’s also been cast as prime suspect. Happily, a police detective thinks she’s being framed and lets her play sleuth as well.
“What amazed her most was that, in a profession where everybody knew everybody’s business, there should still be so much going on beneath the surface; a seemingly endless myriad of intrigues and involvements that never saw the light of day.”

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