Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Opening Night Murder - Anne Rutherford

The Opening Night Murder
A Restoration Mystery
Anne Rutherford
Berkley Prime Crime

Historical Mystery
In the past, I’ve complained about mysteries that leave the actual death/detection stuff for the second half of the book.  Not this time, though.  The author cleverly constructs this story so that the murder happens during the Prologue.  After that, we jump back in time a year or so, to find Suzanne Thornton living her life as the mistress of a Puritan in 1660 London.  As a Puritan, William suffers great guilt over having a mistress, and keeps her living just at the edge of poverty.  These two are clearly not in love; it’s simply an arrangement.  The return of King Charles to London after Cromwell’s beheading changes everything.  Suddenly, there’s no need to hide a mistress.  Theaters begin to reopen.  Puritans hope not to be noticed.
For William, this is a disaster.  He visits Suzanne and tells her he’s leaving her, since, as a devout Puritan and merchant to Cromwell’s government, the King will clearly want him dead.  Suzanne doesn’t believe he’s in much danger, but William declares that he’s off the France for his own safety.  Looking for a way to make a living that does not involve returning to her days as a prostitute, Suzanne is overcome with inspiration when she visits the sad remains of the Globe Theater.  She manages to secure funding by making her son, Piers, the nominal head of the place.  During the opening performance, a body falls from overhead onto the stage.  It’s William, with a crossbow bolt in his neck.
This time, the author is so brilliant at evoking the time period, I would have been happy if she’d forgotten about the murder altogether.  I was so absorbed in Suzanne’s current and past life and the details of her London, that I’d almost forgotten the murder myself.  The murder (re)occurs after the halfway point of the narrative, by which time the reader knows Suzanne, her troupe, her past, and her surroundings as if transported there.  The mystery is solved in an ingenious fashion.  Even so, the end result is up in the air until the very end of the novel.  I hope this is the first in a very, very long series.

Rating: 9
January 2013
ISBN# 978-0-425-25586-5 (trade paperback)


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