Saturday, July 22, 2017

Juliet Dies Twice: Review

Juliet Dies Twice (1943) by Lange Lewis is my second theater-related mystery in row and my third novel by Lewis [having already read The Birthday Murder and Meat for Murder. It is also set at a university in Southern California, which is an added bonus for this academic mystery fan. Eudora York is a psychology major at the university who also has an interest in the theater and serves as props mistress for the Drama Department. When her psychology professor sets up a demonstration to show "the efficiency of the association-test  method in revealing the content of the subject's thought," Eudora and her good friend Millicent Legg are chosen as the subjects. Each is given an envelope with instructions to follow before coming back to the classroom for the test. 

Eudora is sent to the Drama Department's prop room where she finds Ann Laird, currently playing the lead in Romeo & Juliet, apparently made up with white face powder and feigning death. Another envelope tells Eudora that she is the murderess. She returns to the classroom determined not to given anything away with her answers. But after both she and Milly answer the word associations and the class is asked to write on slips of paper who they think saw a "dead body," Eudora receives the most votes. As she gathers her notebook in preparation to leave, Professor Brewer asks her for the key to the prop room. Feeling a little miffed that she gave herself away, she does so and retorts, "I hope you gave her a key, because I locked the door when I left." The professor is baffled--for you see, the "dead body" was supposed to be a male student.

When he and Eudora investigate, they discover that they have a real dead body on their hands. Ann Laird has been killed by the proverbial blunt instrument. Brewer calls the police and informs the university's president. Lieutenant Tuck and his gloomy shadow Detective Froody are assigned to the case. Soon, they're making their way through rival actresses, ardent admirers, and--the obvious suspect--Ann's husband. But no one seems to have hated Ann enough to murder her. Eudora has a few thoughts of her own and when a mysterious threatening voice calls Jim Laird to say that he knows who killed Laird's wife and a notice for a funeral parlor is fastened to the play's notice board near Ann's picture Eudora becomes convinced that a lunatic is to blame. Lt. Tuck much prefers his murders to have good old fashioned motives. Which of them will be right?

Another fairly entertaining novel by Lewis (Jane Lewis Brandt, 1915 - 2003). A light story which mixes a layman's knowledge of abnormal psychology with a conventionally-plotted mystery with a dash of romantic entanglements. The academic setting helped this one along for me.  It's definitely pre-feminist, so don't be surprised at the rather trite summation of Ann's character at the very end. I enjoyed the mystery itself--but was definitely disappointed with the final scene of the book involving Eudora. After enduring the man who has been giving her fits throughout the novel--sending her a fish on ice at one point (to indicate that she was a "cold fish")--she winds up marrying him! Not my idea of a happy ending for Eudora. ★★ and 1/2 stars.

[finished on 7/17/17]
Fulfills the "Musical Instrument" category on the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt card.

For another take on Lewis's novel, please visit John's review at Pretty Sinister Books.

1 comment:

Ryan said...

I love the sound of this one.