Five Star, Sep 2003, 25.95, 215 pp.
In 1919 English Professor John Darnell and his wife of seven years Penny are expecting their first child in a couple of months so he plans to so no sleuthing. However, Mayor Blake Aylmer of Stratford-on-the-Avon calls to ask John to look into two sightings of ghosts on the eve of the American John Barrymore performing Macbeth and Hamlet. Penny persuades John that they can enjoy the performances while he conducts an investigation.
In Stratford, while John begins his inquiries, Penny visits the sights. However, the case begins turning ugly as dead cats (out of Othello) are found and a near fatal accident occurs. Soon the actress Portia Regan is murdered with suspicion on the director Rex Flint, who had an affair with the actress and offers a shaky alibi. A second murder follows, that of a night watchman, who must have seen something though he insisted he slept through the Portia killing. With a Scotland Yard friend on the scene with John, they investigate two homicides while the great Barrymore does justice to Shakespeare.
The latest Darnell historical mystery is an interesting tale that places a great deal of emphasis on John Barrymore so that the audience receives a sense of knowing the actor. The investigation is fun, but takes a back seat to the era and the stage. The cast is a solid group that enables readers to better observe post WW I England. The answer to whether to read or not to read Sam McCarver's latest work is an affirmative for those fans of early twentieth century who-done-its with an emphasis on the times.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner