Ex-con Elmer Vartanian and millionaire Juliet Van Allen, The Double V’s, are back in this cozy New England mystery; the fifth in the series. The setting is summer theater and author Jacqueline T. Lynch creates a fabulous sense of time (1950’s) and place (Summer theater on the Connecticut shore). The leading actress is missing and the amateur detectives soon find themselves embedded in the theatrical world; Juliet as an actress and Elmer as a backstage hand.
A few years back Lynch wrote an historical, well researched, and entertaining book (Comedy and Tragedy on the Mountain: 70 Years of Summer Theater on Mt. Tom, Hokyoe Massachusetts) about the history of live summer theater on Mt. Tom. With the surplus of information she acquired writing this fascinating non-fiction book, Lynch was well equipped to use much of it as background for her novel.
Admittedly, I have a soft spot for backstage mysteries, and Murder at the Summer Theater is satisfying as both a mystery and for the smell of greasepaint and the roar of the crowd.
You can read an interview I did with Ms. Lynch a few years about her biography of actress Ann Blyth here.
Okay, I admit I am bias about New England. It’s my favorite part of the country. There’s a quaint historical feel to almost everywhere you go. It’s in the architecture, the landscape, the air and the people. Adding to my bias is the fact my wife was born and raised in Marlboro, MA. Over the years, we have travelled to every state that makes up the geographical area known as New England. Some states like Vermont, Massachusetts and Maine are particular favorites, but I have found something fascinating and stimulating in all of them. So when I came across Jacqueline T. Lynch’s collection of essays on what it means to be a New Englander I knew I had to read it. Lynch writes in her introduction, “This is not about New England the place as it is about New England the idea…” She focuses on ideas that came out of the nineteen century and moved us into the twentieth century.
We meet many well-known figures like Annie Sullivan, Louisa May Alcott, Lizzie Bordon and other historical figures. There are also articles about lessor known individuals particularly women who became an important part of the workforce during the Industrial Revolution. We also learn about historical landmarks such as Norman’s Woe, a small uninhabited island just off shore from Gloucester, MA. The island and its waters are noted for a series of shipwrecks over the years. Maine poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, immortalized it in his poem, The Wreck of the Hesperus.
Lynch writes passionately about her subjects and New England in general. Her love for New England shines through on every page. Anyone interested in the history of New England and its influence will find these essays an absorbing read.