A Shakespeare play, a pre-wedding party, and a murder are all in a day’s work for a clever costume mistress in upstate New York.
Charlotte Fairfax works for the Catskills Shakespeare Theater Company, based at Jacobs Grand Hotel, whose survival depends on the extra business the company brings. Charlotte and her corgi, Rupert, live on a cottage on the grounds. Lately, however, she’s been entertaining thoughts of sharing a new home with her boyfriend, Ray Nicholson, the local chief of police. The company’s most reliable donor is Mrs. Paula Van Dusen, a wealthy, well-connected widow whose daughter, Belinda, is about to marry Adrian Archer, a top Manhattan real estate agent, even though Mrs. Van Dusen would much prefer a match with Hugh Hedley, the Ivy League scion of another old New York family. Mrs. Van Dusen has arranged for the company to perform A Midsummer Night’s Dream at her estate right after the dress rehearsal. She’s also asked Charlotte’s assistant, Aaron, to design and make the bridesmaids’ dresses. All these careful preparations go by the wayside when the body of Hedley, wearing a donkey’s head stolen from the players, is found in the garden of the Van Dusen estate. Both Hedley and Archer may have been involved in some crooked real estate deals with a wealthy but dishonest social climber. And Archer, it turns out, was having a fling with one of the bridesmaids. But the motive may be more obscure and harder to uncover.
Duncan’s second Catskills mystery (Untimely Death, 2015, etc.) is a delightful cozy with plenty of interesting characters and a touch of midlife romance.