Lured from the North Shore town of Cliffside to help rescue a Boston Romeo and Juliet on life support, theatrically invested ex-cop Edwina "Sully" Sullivan finds the star-crossed lovers upstaged by a pair of real-life stranglings.
The story is that the French director the Bay Repertory Theater brought in for their new production of the old chestnut has left because of a family emergency, but he’s actually been fired over notions ranging from the perverse (the sets, the props, and the costumes are all in glossy white) to the perverted (Capulet has the hots for his own daughter). Now that rehearsals have already begun, Bay Rep director Babs Allyn sends a distress signal to Cliffside artistic director Dimitri Traietti, who grabs the reins but is clearly struggling. So Babs asks whether Sully can spare Cliffside stage manager Connie Reed to lend him a hand—and whether, while she’s at it, she can drive Connie down and stand by to help out herself. Sully arrives in plenty of time to run into Kate Smythe, her ex-husband Gus Knight’s partner in law and love, and to attend a party at the University Club at which Babs memorably crosses swords with philanthropist Mimi Cunningham. The next morning, one of the two antagonists is dead, and the Boston cops, including Sully’s own ex-partner, soon begin making noises about how odd it is that Gus has disappeared. All this kerfuffle leaves Romeo and Juliet in the dust, both its romantic lovers and the vexing difficulties of the current production upstaged by Cliffside treasurer Eric Whitehall and his sister, Emma, whose family played such a leading role in Sully’s first case (A Christmas Peril, 2017), and by an undistinguished supporting cast.
Despite a surprising next-to-last-minute twist, the author doesn’t plot as if her heart were in it, and the promise of juicy backstage intrigue is never fulfilled. You’ll be happy to hear, though, that the production goes off without a hitch in the closing pages.