Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Murder on Cue: Review

Murder on Cue (1983) is Jane Dentinger's debut novel in the Jocelyn "Josh" O'Roarke mystery series. Josh is an aspiring actress who hopes her diaper commercial days are soon to be behind her when she lands a job as understudy to the leading lady in what promises to be a smash Broadway play. She prepares to make the most of her small part as court recorder, but would kill for the chance to step into the part of the female prosecutor. It doesn't help that she has to watch Harriet Weldon, the temperamental star of the show, make a hash of a simply superb part.

Unfortunately, when someone decides to bring the curtain down on Harriet's performance--permanently--the police suspect that she just might have killed for that chance after all. Especially when they learn how she stepped into the role one night in Boston and owned the part...saving the show when Harriet's chronic leg pains prevent her from appearing. After doing so well, she just might not have wanted to give up the part. There is also the fact that she had a major run-in with Harriet just prior to the star's death and Josh had fully expected to be given her walking papers.

With the NYPD looking to fit her for the role of prime suspect, Josh decides to play Sherlock Holmes instead and track down the real killer herself. After all, there are plenty of other people who might have wanted Harriet dead--from the son she tries to dominate and whose friendships she tries to control to the leading man who used to be her lover to Josh's friend Austin Frost, the playwright and someone who has an inheritance stake in Harriet's death. In fact most of the cast and crew of Term of Trial, have had their run-ins with the volatile star.

Fortunately for Josh, Detective-Sergeant Phillip Gerrard who leads the investigation isn't quite as keen to jump to the obvious conclusion as he fellow officers. As he works his way through the evidence, he discovers many of the secrets that Josh's fellow actors and others in the theater would like to keep hidden. Together, Josh and Phillip finally pinpoint the killer....while discovering a few secrets to share themselves.

This was definitely written in the classic tradition. There are plenty of clues to follow up and red herrings to clear out of the path. There is a closed circle of suspects with motives simply crawling out of the woodwork. A very solid debut mystery novel at ★★.  I will definitely be on the lookout for more in this series.

Dentinger was a successful stage actress herself, debuting in Joe Papp’s production of Pericles at the Delacorte Theatre, and later appearing off Broadway in All My Sons at the Roundabout Theatre and in Jack Heifner’s Vanities. Her website tells us that "by the time Vanities finally closed, there were a lot of people she wanted to kill, and hence, she wrote her debut mystery, Murder on Cue, on a grant of sorts from the New York State Department of Labor." She uses her stage experience to good effect in the novel--giving readers an authentic look behind the scenes of a major production.

For another take on Dentinger's first mystery starring Josh O'Roarke, stop by In Search of the Classic Mystery by the Puzzle Doctor.

This counts for the "Author Never Read Before" square on the Silver Vintage Bingo card and gives me two more Bingos!


fredamans said...

When you say Josh plays Sherlock, I am inclined to believe it's solid storytelling. Great review!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a good read to me Bev - thanks for that.