An amateur dramatic production turns deadly in the latest Fethering cozy.
Jude Nichol, a former model and actor, has settled comfortably into her life as a healer in the English village of Fethering. When Storm Lavelle, one of her clients, asks Jude to bring a favorite prop for a production of the Smalting Amateur Drama and Operatic Society, Jude has her first chance to witness SADOS jealousies and backbiting in the rehearsal for George Bernard Shaw’s The Devil’s Disciple. She becomes more than an onlooker, however, in her attempts to help prompter Hester Winstone, who makes a suicidal gesture because of a one-night stand with lead actor Neville Prideaux. After a feud with guest actor Ritchie Goode, Elizaveta Dalrymple, the august widow of SADOS’ founder, walks out on the production, and Jude finds herself back on stage in the grand dame’s role. Jude persuades her neighbor and fellow amateur sleuth Carole Seddon, lately of the Home Office, to take over Hester’s role as prompter. When Goode is found hanged on the prop gallows, Jude and Carole discreetly investigate the other members of the cast—the beleaguered director, the set carpenter who built the gallows, the supremely self-idolizing Elizaveta—to find out whether the hanging was accidental. Or did the pompous and womanizing Goode have more enemies than anyone realized?
Although Brett (A Decent Interval, 2013, etc.) effectively skewers small-town theatrics, occasional glints of pathos and an unexpectedly tragic outcome darken the tone. The abrupt return to the comfort of levity is as unconvincing as the murder motive itself.