Evil in Emerald
Harriet Gordon Mystery, Book #3
By A. M. Stuart
Author Website: amstuartbooks(.)com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
Craving a change of pace, Harriet Gordon, joins a local musical theatre production but when a fellow cast member is brutally killed, Harriet and Inspector Curran must turn the spotlight on murder in this all-new mystery from the author of REVENGE IN RUBIES.
Between working at her brother’s school and typing up Inspector Robert Curran’s police reports, Harriet Gordon has little time for personal pursuits and she has been enjoying the rehearsals for her role in the Singapore Amateur Dramatic and Musical Society’s latest production – Pirates of Penzance. But Harriet quickly discovers tensions run deep within the theater company and when the leading man is found murdered, suspicions abound, exposing scandalous behavior as well as some insidious crimes.
Inspector Curran once again turns to Harriet for help with this difficult case, but his own life begins to unravel as a mysterious man turns up on his doorstep claiming to know more about Curran’s painful past than he himself does. And after the one person he has always counted on delivers him some devastating news, the line between his personal and professional life begins to blur. Now, more than ever, Curran needs Harriet’s steadfast assistance, and when another cast member meets a violent end, Curran and Harriet will have to close in on a killer determined to make this case their final curtain call. (Goodreads)
Talk about escapist reading! Evil in Emerald, the third book in the Harriet Gordon series, transports readers to early twentieth century colonial Singapore where it’s the rainy season and murders overshadow preparations for the local production of The Pirates of Penzance. There is far more at play than meets the eye, and Inspector Curran and typist Harriet dive deep to solve the crimes in this stunning historical mystery.
Harriet Gordon’s days are full with helping her brother Julian run his school, caring for their ward, secretarial duties for the police, stepping out with Australian journalist Simon, and rehearsing for the upcoming show with the local amateur theater. The theater group has given her the opportunity to make new acquaintances among the English set. Everyone is shocked when their leading man Tony’s body is found in the burnt remains of a fire at the group’s headquarters. When it is revealed that Tony was murdered and the fire intentionally set, Harriet finds herself in a unique position to assist Inspector Curran with his investigation among the group’s members. As the body count and threat rise, secrets and fraud are revealed that affect everyone.
This series is wonderful. Author A.M. Stuart does a fantastic job world building. I felt the humidity and the electricity in the air with approaching storms…smelled the acrid smoke and curries…heard the Gilbert and Sullivan melodies while reading. The story is engrossing with many layers, subplots, and complex characters. I enjoy Harriet’s intelligence and independent spirit. People feel comfortable talking to her, and her sympathetic nature is never trite. Inspector Curran, always complicated, is even more so here as he deals with the unraveling of his personal life. His sensitivity to other cultures is stark in comparison to many of his colonizing counterparts. Stuart finds the right balance with these other characters’ prejudice acknowledging the past wrongs without sacrificing authenticity to the period. All of the characters face real and relatable issues, and I like getting to know them as the series continues.
The mystery of Tony’s death at first seems simple, but as the story progresses the tangled web of relationships becomes more and more complex and exciting. I felt invested in the tale right away and had a hard time putting the book down. I did guess whodunit pretty early on, but this did not deter my enjoyment, and I doubted myself for about half of the book. As a fan of musical theater/opera/operettas, I enjoy the amateur theater group’s antics and the author’s nod to Gilbert and Sullivan. The operetta’s lighthearted nature is in direct opposition to the seriousness of the murders and Inspector Curran’s personal situation. And, my heart does break for what Curran is going through. He is utterly devastated by loss and learning more about his absent father. I look forward to being by his side as he works through his troubles and am excited to see where his next assignment with the police will lead him. I cannot wait to see how his and Harriet’s relationship evolves.
Evil in Emerald’s setting makes it feel fresh and exotic. The characters keep me coming back for more. It is excellent reading. Highly recommended.