Staged 4 Murder
Sophie Kimball Mystery, Book #4
By J. C. Eaton
Author Website: jceatonauthor(.)com
Casting suspicion . . .
Sophie “Phee” Kimball wants to get some work done at her private investigation company in Arizona—and she’s distracted already by her old crush, who’s arriving from Minnesota to join the staff. The last thing she needs is constant updates from her mom on the local production of Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap.” Practically everyone from Mom’s book club and retirement community, with the possible exception of her chiweenie, Streetman, wants to join the cast and crew. But someone’s playing the role of the killer for real.
After a much-despised cast member is found dead on a catwalk in the theater, Phee has no choice but to be drawn into all the backstabbing and backstage gossip. Especially if her drama-queen mother is right about the vaguely threatening note left on her windshield, which could mean curtains for another victim . . .
“Phee” Kimball is back in Arizona, and the livin’ is HOT! She is an accountant and bookkeeper for Williams Investigations, owned by a former cop she worked with in Mankato, Minnesota. Business is going so well that owner Nate Williams has hired Marshall Gregory, another former Mankato cop. He is really good looking, according to Phee, and she had a crush on him the entire time they both worked at the Mankato PD. Now he is joining their little office, and temperatures just might be turned up a few notches.
Harriet Plunkett, Phee’s mom, is very active in her Sun City West home. She is in an upcoming Agatha Christie play, The Mousetrap. She and her friends in the Booked 4 Murder book club are part of the play, either on stage or behind the scenes. Harriet is also actively trying to find a hubby for her divorced daughter with oh-so-unsubtle hints, but Phee is content as she is, Well, until she sees Marshall again.
Harriet and her friend Myrna panic when finding notes on their vehicles stating only the title of another Christie novel, And Then There Were None, but at first it seems like a prank. Then, when Miranda, the female lead of the play is found murdered on the catwalk, Harriet and Booked 4 Murder ladies hire the PI’s where Phee works to find the killer. As Nate and Marshall work on their cases, Phee gets involved when her mother calls with daily rehearsal updates, strange occurrences, and invitations to watch the rehearsals. When autopsy results show Miranda could have passed from any one or more of three injuries, Phee’s curiosity lead her to see more of the theater. When “accidents” multiply, those she suspects are either added or eliminated. Miranda wasn’t anyone’s favorite person, so there isn’t a shortage of suspects.
Since the director of the play, Ellowina, is in the hospital after getting food poisoning, a director is filling in from another theater. It is hard for the cast and crew to get used to someone else, but at least it is only for this play. Panic ensues when some ladies think they see Miranda’s ghost; they have to find the real bad guy/ gal before the cast and theatergoers are spooked away.
I like Phee, as she is settled enough to think through events as they occur rather than react immediately. We learn more about Phee, her mother, and members of the book club who have been cornerstones of the earlier novels. Marshall is a great add to the series, especially when Phee’s long-term crush on him gets stronger. They make a great team as they work through the challenges of this case.
Plot twists and turns kept this reader on her toes! The authors are adept at building suspense while building a hard-to-solve mystery. They also include a healthy dose of humor. I enjoyed recognizing names of Sun City attractions and streets, even including a service company and the snowbird arrival. Intrigue increases as the investigation reveals more and more of Miranda’s – and other people’s – pasts. While I had a sneaking suspicion who the real killer was, I didn’t know the reason until much later. This is an exciting, edge of one’s seat cozy mystery that I thoroughly enjoyed! There are several surprises at the end, and I appreciate how all of the loose ends are tied up. I highly recommend Staged 4 Murder, and the rest of the series, to those who enjoy well-written cozy mysteries, local theater groups, and the atmosphere of Sun City West, Arizona, and the neighboring towns.
*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*