Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sucker Punch - Sammi Carter

Sucker Punch
A Candy Shop Mystery
Sammi Carter
Berkley Prime Crime


Abby Shaw returned to her hometown of Paradise, CO, two years ago to take over her late aunt’s candy shop, Divinity. She’s busy gearing up for the Valentine’s Day rush when Vonetta Cummings drops in for a visit. Vonetta runs the Paradise Playhouse, and she’s there to ask Abby to participate in the next production. Abby begs off, citing a busy candy-making schedule, but finds time for regret when she learns more about the production. The director is one Alexander Pastorelli, who decided to direct a sort of farewell local production before heading out to his new gig on Broadway.

The musical director of the new play-within-a-play is Laurence Nichols, another local boy turned celebrity. With that kind of star power, the seats will be filled and the critics in attendance. Naturally, this makes for heightened competition for all roles. And that leads to disputes, like the very heated exchange between Vonetta and Laurence that Abby happens to overhear. Deciding to check in on things, Abby arrives at the Playhouse to discover Laurence lying dead on the stage with Vonetta crouched over him. Of course, Abby knows perfectly well that Vonetta would never commit an act of violence. Now she’s going to have to convince the authorities.

Paradise is a small town, so most of the inhabitants have known each other all their lives. It’s interesting to see these dynamics play out in this kind of atmosphere. Setting the story in and around the theater production widens the cast of characters – and, thus, the suspect pool – to a satisfying degree.

While this installment (PEPPERMINT TWISTED, GOODY GOODY GUNSHOTS) is a little slow to get started, the opening chapters are a lot of fun and serve to introduce the new and returning characters. Once there’s a crime, the story moves along at a nice pace, with a few interesting twists along the way. New readers will find it very easy to get up to speed. Anyone who has ever participated in community theater will recognize many of the interactions and personalities here and appreciate the author’s realism. A visit to Divinity isn’t always sugarcoated, but it’s always a lot of fun.

Rating: 7
June 2009
ISBN# 978-0-425-22706-0 (paperback)


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