The seventh attempt (Ransom Unpaid, 1999, etc.) to recivilize Chicago begins with sweet-as-elderberry-wine Emily Charters witnessing the death of the tenor in the spanking new Sheridan Center's premiere production of Carmen. A new, equally stylized production swiftly takes Bizet’s place offstage, starring Emily and her faux-grandson, police detective Jeremy Ransom, as the lead snoops, and featuring as suspects the likes of Maria Cortez, the temperamental diva who may have been the murderer's real target and who, at any rate, was about to defect to another opera company; the male and female second leads, highly ambitious and lovelorn respectively; the blithely chatty makeup artist, who, like the proverbial hairdresser, knew most everybody's secrets; and the Center's youthful director, Edward Carnegie, who was hiding his past romantic dalliance with Sheridan Foundation director Steven Sheridan—who, in turn, was grieving for his dying lover and their chance to escape the tentacles of his oppressive mother. While waiting for the toxicology reports, Ransom surveys the backstage area, the hotel accommodations, the local florist, asking politely as you please for any information anyone might have. Then, in a between-chapters bit of insight, he settles on the culprit in time to join Miss Emily for that famous Chicago mainstay, tea and cookies.
Mildly bitchy theatrical backbiting and discreet homosexual pairings, all as unthreatening to the nervous system as a bedtime story.