Two old friends work together to make connections between a historic mystery emerging from a theater renovation and a modern-day murder.
“The Old Deep and Dark” is the nickname of the newly christened Thorn Lester Playhouse, which wisecracking, imposing Cordelia Thorn is preparing to restore. At least, that’s what Archibald Van Arnam, the University of Minnesota’s own resident historian, tells her as he helps her explore the new space. Cordelia, Jane Lawless’ closest friend, wants to know the history of the place but doesn’t bargain for the body that’s found buried behind a brick wall or the secrets that accompany it—the Old Deep and Dark indeed. Jane would love to help, but she’s working on a case of her own. Her dad, Ray, has asked for her help investigating the murder of famous country-western singer Jordan Deere. Jordan’s stage-actress wife, Kit, has always been a little sweet on Ray, so he’s in shock when his interrogation of her leads him to lies and more lies. Apparently the Deeres, with their two adult children in from out of town, are prepared to close ranks to keep family secrets. Not that Jordan wanted to be a keeper of secrets anymore; it’s distinctly possible he was murdered over the impending release of a fictionalized tell-all memoir from which no member of his family seems to emerge unscathed. Jane wishes she could keep her attention on the case, but her thoughts keep drifting to her girlfriend, Avi, who’s out of town with Julia, Jane’s ex-turned-nemesis-turned–Avi’s publisher.
The Deere family has to carry much of the weight of the narrative. That’s great for readers who buy into their family gossip but less great for those who’ll miss the sharp wit Cordelia displays in Hart’s ongoing Jane Lawless series (Taken By the Wind, 2013, etc.).