THE HAMLET TRAP by Kate Wilhelm


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Veteran science-fiction writer Wilhelm inaugurates a mystery-series featuring NYC private-eye Charlie Meiklejohn and his psychologist-wife Constance Leidl. Their first case takes them to Ashland, Oregon, where two murders have blighted a long-successful theater company. Actually, the novel is best before Charlie and Constance appear--as we're introduced to the primary personnel in and around Harley's Theater: intense founder Roman Cavanaugh; his beloved niece/heir-apparent, gifted set-designer Ginnie Braden; newly hired artistic director Gray Wilmot, a transplant (with live-in girlfriend Laura) from the East Coast; and pushy weirdo-playwright ""Sunshine"" (nÉe Elinor Shumaker), winner--despite highly mixed opinions--of the theater's new-play contest. The tensions among these showfolk simmer intriguingly. . .but the first murder victim is Ginnie's inoffensive geologist-boyfriend Peter, struck down at the dark theater during a nighttime errand. Victim #2 is Gray's girlfriend Laura, found drowned a few days later in the local river. And the police, for iffy reasons, have targeted nice Ginnie as top suspect. So it's up to the NYC duo (hired by Ginnie's estranged grandparents) to spot the real culprit--which they do, but not until after Ginnie's anxiety-ridden childhood (a fatal fire, an incest-tinged triangle) is reconstructed bit by bit. The killer's motivations are less than persuasive; the psycho-investigation into Ginnie's history slides rather soggily into gothic melodrama. But Charlie (an ex-cop) and Constance (super-sensitive) are tolerably folksy company, the backstage background (despite a wrong note or two) is unusually well-done--and this is a solid, promising start for Wilhelm's series.

Pub Date: Sept. 25th, 1987
Publisher: St. Martin's