Take one witty play by George Bernard Shaw, two longtime friends and Anglophiles, and a passion for the Edwardian era. The end result? A new mystery series from Meg Mims and Sharon Pisacreta (aka D.E. Ireland).
I know I am dating myself here, but the first play I saw that had a strong mystery element to it was Sleuth, during its first round on Broadway. It was in the year 19— (what, you think I am going to say?). It also was my first experience with Broadway and my first visit to New York City. Sleuth was an epiphany for me—allowing me to see that deft plotting and subtle clues could be translated to the stage. (At least that is what I believe I thought; I was pretty young at the time.) What Sleuth did was give me a lifelong respect for good mystery plays. Frankly, there are not a lot out there but the ones that succeed work well. (For the record, the musical Curtains worked; Agatha Christie’s long-running The Mousetrap does not.) So it was with much skepticism and a bit of apprehension that I attended a recent performance of Jeffrey Hatcher’s Murderers, at the nationally known Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota, Florida. Hatcher’s (Tuesdays With Morrie) Murderers is a sly trilogy about three people who never expected to become killers, but did. Murderers is set in a fictitious Sarasota retirement community, but the play can be appreciated no matter where you live. The three “murderers” are a 50something man who marries his girlfriend’s mother so the younger couple can avoid estate tax; a woman whose husband’s old love moves into their retirement community; and a manager at the retirement community who hates the way some of the residents are treated. The three characters’ monologues are witty, reminiscent of the kind of tongue in cheek work that Donna Andrews, Elaine Viets, Jeffrey Cohen and Harley Jane Kozak write. The Asolo’s actors are first-class, and the play hinges on professional actors. Lesser talents would not get the nuances of Murderers. Mystery fans would find much to like in Murderers. If it is done in a regional theater near you, I would love to hear your comments. While I am not a theater critic, I am married to one who is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association, whose recent conference was in Sarasota, Florida. The conference is a wonderful excuse to sample an area’s best theater; in the past the conference has been held at Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco and Chicago, among other locales.
PHOTOS: Bryan Torfeh, top, Mercedes Herrero, bottom, in Murderers; Courtesy Asolo
This article was originally published on the Mystery Scene Blog, May 2009.
David Suchet as Hercule Poirot and Zoë Wanamaker as Ariadne Oliver in "Mrs. McGinty’s Dead"; Courtesy PBS
Could Agatha Christie be the hottest new author to be discovered by readers? It kind of seems so. And Mystery Scene magazine is in the thick of this new look at Christie. Through July 26, PBS is airing Six by Agatha, a half-dozen whodunits by the famed British author, left. Starting the week of July 5, Mystery Scene Editor in Chief and co-publisher Kate Stine will be answering questions at the Barnes and Noble Agatha Christie TV discussion. Kate’s knowledge of Agatha Christie reaches beyond her role at Mystery Scene. For about five years she was the director of the Agatha Christie Society. Kate will be answering questions during the week of July 5 as part of the teaming up with PBS' Masterpiece Mystery. And BN.com is to give the viewers and readers access to experts connected to each of their programs. If you sign up for the Masterpiece e-newsletter for program alerts, you can be entered to win a set of Six by Agatha books. Kate should offer some thoughtful and entertaining background on Agatha Christie. If you want more info about Six by Agatha, visit PBS’ Christie site. It’s stocked with extras such as an interview with David Suchet, who plays Hercule Poirot, as well as interviews on “The Female Detective” with authors Sue Grafton, Faye Kellerman, and Tess Gerritsen. There also are bits of trivia such as the fact that David Suchet (last seen as Van Helsing in the 2007 Masterpiece production of Dracula) has appeared in his signature role as the suave Belgian detective Poirot in a staggering 61 episodes over the last 20 years. For those who are counting, that means there are just 10 more adaptations to go before Suchet completes the canon. And let’s not forget Miss Marple. Julia McKenzie, who takes over the iconic role of supersleuth Miss Marple, may look familiar to Masterpiece viewers. She played Mrs. Forrester (the widow unusually devoted to her beloved cow Bessie) in last year’s production of Cranford. Here’s what the upcoming episodes of Six by Agatha will include: Hercule Poirot: “Mrs. McGinty’s Dead”; Miss Marple, Series IV: “A Pocket Full of Rye"; “Murder is Easy”; “They Do it With Mirrors”; “Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?”
This article was originally published on the Mystery Scene Blog, June 2009.
Caroline and Charles Todd; photo courtesy HarperCollins
For years, I have been a big fan of the Ian Rutledge series written by Charles Todd. Set in the post-World War I era, the series is steeped in the atmosphere of Britain during this time. More importantly, the series looks at a brilliant Scotland Yard detective who is still shell-shocked from his time during the Great War. Todd has kept the high standards in this series since it began with A Test of Wills in 1997. So I am quite interested to learn that Todd will be launching a new series with A Duty to the Dead, due out in August from HarperCollins. A Duty to the Dead will continue Todd’s look at the horrors of Word War I, this time through the eyes of Bess Crawford, a battlefield nurse. Todd is one of the handful of authors who have used the WWI background as a way of looking at society, survivors’ guilt and Britain during the first part of the 20th century. Todd wrote one previous standalone, The Murder Stone, about a young heiress in 1916 who returns to the rural estate where her powerful and beloved grandfather is dying of a stroke. Todd, the writing name for mother and son Charles and Caroline Todd, has made my annual list of the best mysteries for several years. Judging just from previous history, I think that readers will embrace Bess Crawford as they have Ian Rutledge. While some authors will write only one series—and carry it on for decades—I’m always enthusiastic when an author tries something new, especially when they return to their regular series. Sometimes it seems as if the author returns that regular series a little fresher, having had a nice and sometimes much needed vacation from their regular characters. I never want Michael Connelly to give up Harry Bosch, at least not for several years, but his breaks have only served to make his series even better. Connelly’s latest, The Scarecrow, comes out May 26. Harlan Coben's standalone thrillers put him on best sellers lists, but he still returns to Myron Bolitar now and then. Laura Lippman's standalones have been some of her best work, but I always like to see what’s going on with Tess Monaghan. Other authors such as Donna Andrews, Laurie King, Charlaine Harris—dear me, the list goes on and on—have given us two or even more series. The winner in all of this has been the reader. Do you have a favorite second series from an author?
This article was originally published on the Mystery Scene Blog, May 2009.