Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Curtain Falls: Review

A Curtain Falls is a stronger book than Stefanie Pintoff's debut in the Simon Ziele series. It takes us back to New York City in the earliest days of the Twentieth Century. It's a time when Charles Frohman, a historical figure who appears in the book, rules the theater world with an iron hand. If actors and actresses want to make a life in the business, they had better keep their reputations clean and abide by his rules. But somebody doesn't want the theater to be so tidily kept out of the gutter press. 

To begin, a chorus girl is found dead on one of Frohman's stages (his syndicate owns a large number of the theaters in the City)--she is dressed in the part of the current leading lady and left dead without a mark on her. A bizarre note is found beside her and the coroner is ready to call it a suicide until Frohman's assistant reveals that this is the second chorus girl found dead in these circumstances. Captain Declan Mulvaney calls upon his former partner, Detective Simon Ziele, to assist him with this tricky case.

Tricky not only because of the pressure that an influential man like Frohman can bring to bear, but because the methods of the murderer and his notes to the police and then to the press reveal that they are up against a fiendishly clever villain. Ziele insists on bringing in Columbia University criminologist Alistair Sinclair, a man with connections to the theater and with unusual methods of investigation--perhaps unusual enough to help them understand the fiendish methods employed.

Before Ziele and Sinclair can complete their investigations, however, Mulvaney is pressured to arrest a man from the theater. Ziele believes the man to be innocent and discovers a way in which the actor could have been framed. But with no hard evidence to show Mulvaney, he decides to set a trap catch the killer before he can pull off a grand finale to his performance. Will Ziele be able to bring the curtain down in time? Or will he find himself cast as one of the expendable players in the killers production?

I thoroughly enjoyed my little trip to New York City in 1906. Pintoff does an excellent job with historic detail and giving the reader the feeling of stepping into a time machine to visit the past. The premise is interesting--using the story of Pygmalion as a theme for murderer was quite good. Her weakness is misdirection. I knew quite early who the killer was--but as with her first book, she did provide a final twist that meant I didn't quite get everything right. The plotting was a bit tighter in her second book and pushes the rating to★★  and a half rather than the just over three that In the Shadow of Gotham earned from me. 

1 comment:

fredamans said...

Great review!
I don't think learning the killer early on with bother me much, sometimes it still doesn't spoil the story and this one sounds good for a first timer! I think I might enjoy it!