The shabby Vulcan theater is not where Martyn Tarne hoped to work when she moved from New Zealand to London to pursue an acting career. But Martyn takes a job as dresser to the Vulcan’s leading lady. This provides her with a ringside seat to the backstage circus: the aging alcoholic actor, the waspish playwright, the surprisingly gracious grande dame. There is, of course, a murder, soenter Inspector Alleyn.
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I'm fondest of mysteries where the characters are complex and their interactions more interesting than just trying to guess whodunit. This book delivers a rich set of theater people and some interesting looks at the theater behind the scenes.
The bulk of this book is not about the murder that justifies its inclusion within the Alleyn series but rather with the background against which the murder takes place. Unlike previous books I felt I understood who must be the murder not because of painstakingly distributed clues. Marsh paints her characters and interactions more carefully and more believably than in many of her books. The exception, in my opinion, is the portrait of the character to actually commits the murder. In that case either Marsh felt she could not more clearly paint his/her portrait without giving the conclusion away or because she herself finds it difficult to get inside the mind of such a murderer.Marsh so clearly enjoyed writing about actors and the theater that one wonders if she was dissuaded by her publishers from doing so and therefore found herself forced to place murders within theaters and the theater community in order to write about what she found most interesting.