1 July 2014

Review: FINAL CURTAIN, Ed Ifkovic

  • Format: e-book (Kindle)
  • review copy from publisher via NetGalley
  • File Size: 1288 KB
  • Print Length: 268 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press (June 5, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • #5 in the Edna Ferber series 
Synopsis (Publisher)

Who murdered the handsome young actor? And why?

In 1940, against the chilling backdrop of Hitler’s rise and the specter of another war, Edna Ferber decides to follow an old dream: to act on the stage. Selecting The Royal Family, the comedy she wrote with George S. Kaufman, for her starring role, she travels to Maplewood, New Jersey. But her escape from the troubling daily headlines is short lived. Before opening night, a mysterious understudy is shot to death, opening up a world of lies, greed, and hypocrisy.

Ferber, along with Kaufman, who is directing the production, begin a different kind of collaboration: the discovery of the murderer. As rehearsals evolve, they deal with a cast of characters who are all hiding something from their days spent in Hollywood: a stage manager, a young ingénue, an American Nazi and his boisterous girlfriend, a stagehand named Dakota who is the son of a famous evangelist, his charismatic preacher-mother, her money-bags husband, and a driven acolyte of the church. Each character, Edna discovers, has some connection with the dead man. Why have they all converged on quiet Maplewood? As Edna investigates, she realizes that the answer to the murder lies back in Hollywood.

As Kaufman wisecracks his way through the story, Edna methodically examines the facts, determined to find the answer. Opening night looms and so does World War II. Edna, resolute, believes that justice needs to prevail in a world that is falling apart.

Background material (Wikipedia)

Edna Ferber (August 15, 1885 – April 16, 1968) was an American novelist, short story writer and playwright. Her novels were especially popular and included the Pulitzer Prize-winning So Big (1924), Show Boat (1926; made into the celebrated 1927 musical), Cimarron (1929; made into the 1931 film which won the Academy Award for Best Picture), and Giant (1952; made into the 1956 Hollywood movie).

She also wrote
  • Minick: A Play (1924) (play, with G. S. Kaufman)
  • Stage Door (1926) (play, with G.S. Kaufman)
  • The Royal Family (1927) (play, with G. S. Kaufman)
FINAL CURTAIN is #5 in the author's Edna Furber series. - check Publisher Poisoned Press.
The others are
#1. LONE STAR: Writer Edna Ferber arrives on the set of Giant to find her self in the middle of a murder investigation. Set in 1952.
#2. ESCAPE ARTIST: 19 year old reporter Edna Ferber interviews Harry Houdini.Set in 1904.
#3. MAKE BELIEVE: in June 1951 Edna Ferber heads to Hollywood to support an old friend who has found himself blacklisted as a result of the McCarthy hearings.
#4. DOWNTOWN STRUT; Manhattan 1927: Edna Ferber prepares for "the Ferber season on Broadway." On December 27, the musical adaptation of Show Boat by Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern opens. On December 28, The Royal Family, her comedy of manners written with George Kaufman, hits the stage despite Ethel Barrymore’s disapproval of the play’s depiction of “theatrical royalty.” But despite the excitement, Edna misses both opening nights. She has something else on her mind—murder.

My Take

I've included the background material above in my review because it indicates the search I did to understand the background to this novel. My curiosity was pricked by the foreword to the review copy provided by Barbara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, Poisoned Pen Press.

Initially the name Edna Ferber meant nothing to me, but then discovered that I knew at least about ShowBoat. However I don't think I have ever read any of her novels or short stories. That may be because I am not an American resident, and so her work has never been part of any course reading I have done either at school or university.

I really am of two minds when a contemporary writer hitches his star to that of a "great". However I have tried to be as objective as I can be about FINAL CURTAIN, even though it attempts to bring both Edna Furber and G.S. Kaufman to life. I have no means of deciding how accurate these depictions are.

On its own, FINAL CURTAIN, is quite an intriguing plot. Edna Furber is delighted with the opportunity to go on stage, but from the very beginning there is a murder and intrigue. There is a focus on the Nazi element in the USA in 1940 which adds period authenticity. Furber and Kaufman are Jews. There is a second murder and Furber's investigation intensifies.

I think the author has taken great care with the style of these novels, to try to capture the style of how Edna Furber wrote - did I mention that the novel is presented in the first person?
My rating: 4.3

If you want to understand why I've used the graphic to the right, you might want to check this post.

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