27 December 2011

Review: MURDER IN THE SECOND ROW, Bev Robitai(lle)

  • published as an e-book on Smashwords June 2010
  • I purchased it and read it on my Kindle
Author's blurb

There are many things that can go wrong between casting a show and Opening Night.  Finding a body in the second row is just one of them.

Jessica Jones is well aware that the old Regent Theatre is at crisis point.  As theatre manager she is responsible for most of the productions staged there, and this show is the last chance to prove that the place can make enough money to be worth saving.  (more)

My take

Many thanks to Craig Sisterson at CrimeWatch for pointing to this debut novel by New Zealand author Bev Robitai.

In the acknowledgements at the beginning of the book Robitai writes
    To all those who toil tirelessly in theatres everywhere, especially the past and present members of Nelson Repertory Theatre Inc. and the Theatre Royal Trust. 
    I’ve borrowed many of your finer attributes for the most likeable characters in this book. The nasty ones are of course entirely fictional. (And remember, I had to save some good characters for future books.) 
    The story is made up but the setting is the real Theatre Royal just as she was before the latest refurbishments, with all her quirky little nooks and crannies.
Like many amateur theatre groups the Whetford amateur dramatic society decides to stage a play that will have wide appeal, written by a "classic" author. Their choice is APPOINTMENT WITH DEATH by Agatha Christie which they hope will be popular.

Right from the start there appears to be someone who is determined that the show will not go on. The theatre itself is under threat by a local property developer who goes into print emphasising the antiquated nature of the building. Somebody keeps shoving cryptic notes on purple paper through the side door and even attempts to burn the building down.
None of the incidents are potential show stoppers until the death in the second row.

I enjoyed the bits of humour, the touches of romance, and the occasional "tributes" to Agatha Christie.
    'Yes, right under our noses. Haven't you noticed how Gert looks just like Miss Marple? She may not hail from St Mary’s Mead but I bet she has a shrewd grasp of human nature.' 'Better her than that bloody little Belgian git. Hercule Poirot always annoyed the hell out of me,' said Gazza. 'Such a smug, self-righteous windbag.' .... 
    'Well, most of the old girl's murders were motivated by sex or passion, weren't they?' said Howard. 'Human nature hasn’t changed much since she wrote her novels, just the world around us. Fewer servants, for one thing.' ..... 
    'Forget C.S.I., give me good old Agatha Christie. Leave it with me, Jack – I shall apply my little grey cells to the problem and try to come up with a solution for you some other way. It'll be the human element that's the key, you know. Motive is everything.'
MURDER IN THE SECOND ROW which appears to be sub-titled "Are you sure we can’t advertise for a tart?" is an enjoyable read made all the more so by the fact that it is carefully constructed and filled with interesting characters.

A good read for those of you who like a good cozy and have an e-reader.

My rating: 4.2

There were two things I kept thinking about as I read MURDER IN THE SECOND ROW.
The first was Simon Brett's Charles Paris series, murder mysteries set in the theatrical world.
The second was STAGESTRUCK by Peter Lovesey, one of my best reads for 2011.

I can see another crime fiction title by Bev Robitai on Smashwords: 22 WAYS TO GET REVENGE
This one is set in Canada.
When a charming conman steals your father's money and gets away with it, what do you do? You hunt him down and do whatever you can to make his life hell. Robyn Taylor knows a few payback tricks. She tracks down Colwyn Symons with the help of hunky investigator Mike Kent, but her survival skills are tested to the limit when Colwyn fights back unexpectedly.

Read another review on Reactions to Reading.

Find out more about the refurbished Theatre Royal in Nelson, New Zealand.


Anonymous said...

Kerrie - Oh, this does sound like a nice choice for those cosy moods. Thanks for sharing, and thanks for the fine review.

Dorte H said...

Why don´t I need some books? This one sounds good, and for once a NZ mystery which is not terribly expensive.

Kerrie said...

That's one I think you would enjoy Dorte

Bev Robitai said...

The link to 22 Ways to Get Revenge is defunct now as I republished the book as Eye for An Eye. I'd thought the title was a bit old hat, but it still gets more attention than 22 ways to Get Revenge! Always fun seeing what readers will respond to. By the way, the second theatre book is out now - Body on the Stage. Available in print or as an ebook via Amazon. Anywhere in the world. Isn't technology wonderful?


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