Saturday, September 30, 2017

Mr. & Mrs. North & the Poisoned Playboy: Review

In Mr. & Mrs. North and the Poisoned Playboy (originally published as Death of an Angel in 1955), Frances & Richard Lockridge's amateur sleuth couple find themselves plunged into murder at the theater. One of North's authors, Samuel Wyatt, has turned playwright and his show Around the Corner has just racked up its 100th show. With the lovely Miss Naomi Shaw in the lead, its success is guaranteed and it's just possible Wyatt and the rest of the company are on their way to the big time.

But then Bradley Fitch, well-known wealthy playboy, chooses the 100th night celebration party to announce that he and Naomi Shaw are going to be married.

"Going to steal your girl, cousins....Put her in my pocket."

And he means just that. He's going to marry her and take her off the stage. Just like that. No more packed houses at Around the Corner. No more ticket sales. Because, despite Fitch saying they can get another girl, there just isn't another Naomi Shaw and Miss Shaw has made that part so much her own that no one could step in and keep the play's momentum going.

So, it's not unreasonable that a lot of people see red when the wedding bells start ringing. Sam Wyatt isn't exactly delighted to know that his shares won't be pouring in. Wesley Strothers, the producer of the show, isn't particularly thrilled with the idea either. Jasper Tootle, Naomi's agent, isn't delighted to know that his percentage is going to evaporate. Phyllis Barnscott and Sidney Castle, also leads in the play, are a little miffed that their bread and butter may be in short supply soon as well. And, then, there are other matters. Fitch's relatives, Mr. and Mrs. Nelson--who have counted on the perennial bachelor remaining a bachelor and remembering his family appropriately when it comes to wills and things--aren't really all that excited to see him ready to settle down.

And somebody decides to act on their feelings. The morning after Fitch throws a stag party to celebrate his forthcoming nuptials, his housekeeper finds him dead with the remains of a hangover "cure" beside him. Somebody added a dose of oxalic acid to his pick-me-up and ended the threat to Broadway's latest hit. Enter Acting Captain Bill Weigand and Lt. Mullins who just happen to be on loan to Homicide East (due to a rash of emergency and regular leaves) to take up the case. Of course, the Norths are in it too--from their connection to the playwright to the appearance of one of their monogrammed (!) cocktail napkins in the dead man's apartment--and are kept thoroughly up-to-date on the proceedings by Bill...and by Sam Wyatt (who's sure the cops are going to clap the cuffs on him any minute.

This one is great fun for those of us who like fair-play mysteries. It is more fairly-clued than most of the Lockridge books and careful readers will be able to spot the right clues among the red herrings. It also marks one of the few times that Pam is wrong--she normally "jumps" to the right solution, though following her thought processes may be a bit tricky, but this time she is very surprised by Bill's selection of culprit. As always, I thoroughly enjoyed the witty dialogue and interactions of our recurring characters. Sam is a bit of a sad-sack, but close association with the Norths does seem to help. ★★★★

[Finished on 9/23/17]
Fulfills the "Cat" category on the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt card.

No comments: