A DARK COFFIN by Gwendoline Butler


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 A pair of bizarre murders is complicating life for Chief Commander John Coffin in his Second City of London bailiwick (The Coffin Tree, 1996, etc.). The victims are Joe and Josie Macintosh, vendors of food from their street stands around the neighborhood, often in front of the St. Luke's theater complex, which is presided over by Coffin's actress wife Stella Pinero. Someone had sent the Macintoshes tickets for the opening night of a new show at St. Luke's. Now the two are found, carefully stabbed to death, in one of the theater's boxes, with what appears to be a suicide note on the floor. Coffin is also involved with the troubles of Harry Trent, an old friend on leave from another precinct who's looking for his strange and worrisome twin brother Mark. The twins had spent some growing-up, painful years as wards of the Macintoshes, but this murdered pair are not the same Macintoshes the brothers knew--in more ways than one. A thorough search of the couple's shabby house and garden soon provides the reason. At the theater, meanwhile, Stella, her general manager Alfreda Boxer, Alfreda's son Barnabas, who serves as assistant stage manager, and wardrobe mistress May Renier are going about the theater's business as routinely as possible--until the day Stella is attacked and stabbed in one of the storage rooms. The plotting is dense and murky, the writing sometimes oblique and pretentious, especially during a series of dark, anonymous musings on the Jekyll-Hyde theme. But there's a neat surprise in the tortuous puzzle's resolution, and more than enough menacing suspense to grip the reader to the end.

Pub Date: Dec. 13th, 1996
ISBN: 0-312-14577-2
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1996


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