Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Exit Actors, Dying: Review

Exit Actors, Dying by Margot Arnold (1979) is the first in a series of cozy, academic (according to my loosely-defined rules) mysteries featuring Penny Spring and Sir Toby Glendower. Penny is originally from New England, but throughout the series she is a lecturer at Oxford University specializing in anthropology. Sir Toby is a Welsh archaeologist, also from Oxford.  When we first meet them it is obvious that they have been friends for quite some time. They have a close relationship--filled with mutual respect and banter, sounding almost like an old married couple.

The mystery itself is an interesting one. Penny and Toby (he won't actually be knighted until after this adventure) are on a sight-seeing trip in Turkey--a busman's holiday of sorts, checking out ancient Greek ruins. Penny has gone on her own to look over a ruined amphitheater (before Toby can come along and give her the full archaeological lecture) when she stumbles over the body of a murdered young woman with a wound in her throat. By the time she makes it back to the small town where they are staying and convinces the local police to come investigate the body has disappeared. The chief of police is looking cross-eyed at her and is all set to lock her up for wasting valuable police time when Toby produces a body of his own. This time it is a young black man--a former football player who has been working with a film company that is in the area to film a movie entitled, “The Travels of Telemachus.”

The description of the woman Penny saw matches another member of the film company and when the actress doesn't show up as expected the police chief begins to credit what Penny claims to have seen.  Toby manages to charm the officials into letting Penny stay on the outside of the jail--and convinces the chief that he and Penny will have a better chance of getting information out of the "foreigners" in the film company. They also need to help the police get things wrapped up as soon as possible--Toby has a date with the Queen in ten days to claim his knighthood. The two set to work and soon have their choice of motives--jealousy over parts or love affairs? Drug smuggling gone bad?  Ditto for smuggling rare artifacts? It's seems like there was more going on with the film company than just making a movie....way more.

Overall, a very satisfying mystery. The solution is a bit twisty and tangled, but the pieces fit and there are clues along the way. I absolutely enjoyed the relationship between Penny and Toby and enjoyed getting to know them in this first outing.  I have several more of this series waiting in the TBR wings and I anticipate having a good time with them as well.  The one problem I had was with racial references.  Both the young black man and an Indian man are referred to as "bucks" in what is clearly a derogatory sense and the n-word is also thrown out there, to no purpose, as far as I can see. Yes, Arnold was trying to establish one of the characters as racist, but there was no point to it. It wasn't as if race was a major factor in the murders--or even brought in as a red herring. Had that been the case, then the racist language might have had some relevance.  Three stars for a good solid mystery.

Challenges Met: Vintage Mystery Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge, Cruisin' Thru the Cozies, Bookish TBR, Around the World, Century of Books, Outdo Yourself, How Many Books, My Kind of Mystery, 100 Plus Challenge, Women Challenge, Book Bingo, A-Z Reading Challenge, European Reading Challenge, A-Z Mystery Author Challenge, Book Monopoly, Scrabble

This book fulfills the "Set Anywhere But the US/England" square on the Silver Vintage Bingo card.


J F Norris said...

There's a used bookstore in Chicago that has a slew of these. I have a couple I bought at a book sale. Still haven't read them. Glad to see Arnold is a traditionalist and into the puzzle aspect. Maybe I'll add her to my Silver Bingo card when I get started on that one.

Bev Hankins said...

I bought a bundle of these at the library bookstore (5-6 of them)...I could read several in a row.

fredamans said...

It's nice when the characters have comfortable banter. You slip more easily into a story.
Great review!