The solar eclipse of 1927 provides the perfect backdrop for murder.
Private inquiry agent Kate Shackleton is intrigued when she gets a visit from adored stage star Selina Fellini and her manager, Trotter Brockett. Selina is married to Jarrod Compton, a talented composer who writes most of her songs but was badly scarred both physically and mentally in the war and is becoming more erratic every day. Now that she’s been invited to witness the eclipse by the Astronomer Royal at the Giggleswick School, Selina claims to be anxious about all the things that could go wrong on a trip that must be carefully planned to get her back in time for her latest performance. Kate arranges for herself, Selina, and her friend, famous comedian Billy Moffatt, to fly up and back. The eclipse is wonderful, but when Billy vanishes and is found near death, Kate suspects that there’s more to Selina’s fears than she’s revealed. Although the doctor is sure Billy’s suffering from a drug overdose, Kate thinks the cigar he was smoking was poisoned. Testing proves her right after Billy dies in the hospital. When they return to Leeds, Selina admits she suspects that two accidental deaths of her fellow performers may actually have been murders, and it’s obvious that she fears her husband may be involved. With the help of her housekeeper, Mrs. Sugden, and her assistant, former policeman Jim Sykes, Kate investigates the theater crowd in hopes of finding a better suspect. Along the way, she learns a good deal about the trends in a theatrical life on the cusp of changing over from music hall acts to plays and movies, and she wonders whether the motives for murder may lie in that change.
As usual (Death at the Seaside, 2017, etc.), Brody provides an excellent feel for life in postwar England along with a clever mystery full of theatrical red herrings.