I cannot tell a lie, dear reader: This is, technically, another cozy mystery.
But it’s an awful lot more fun than the Scottish Play.
Ivy Meadows is the stage name of Olive Ziegwart, an aspiring actress and occasional assistant to her uncle Bob (yep, Bob’s her uncle). Ivy lives in Phoenix, AZ, and as the tale opens is arriving at the Phoenix Shakespeare Theater for her audition to join the cast of Macbeth. It is, in the space of two pages, a comedy of the utmost errors that yet manages to introduce us to many of the main players: Ivy herself, Uncle Bob, Linda, the Stage Manager, and Simon Black (yes, Ivy tells us, the Simon Black) washed-up alcoholic movie star.
Like every actor, I knew Macbeth was cursed, that death and destruction and all manner of bad things happen during the show. You’d think I would’ve remembered this the day of my audition. (p. 1)
Ivy manages to land the part of one of the witches, but she ends up in deeper than she bargained when one of the four main players ends up murdered.
There’s a little bit of everything in this story: Murder, Mayhem, the Theatre, Death, Destruction, Romance, near-riots, Phoenix weather, and above all a version of Macbeth set in, of all places, the circus.
A moment’s digression: I’m rather fond of off-kilter adaptations of Shakespeare. One of my favorite versions of The Taming of The Shrew (yes, I know, it’s an awful play about horrible people) was set in the Old West; and my favorite filmed version of Macbeth is a dark comedy set in a fast-food restaurant in the 1970s in Pennsylvania whose cast includes Christopher Walken as Policeman McDuff (if you haven’t seen Scotland, PA, you must do this thing, trust me).
Ivy has her own lifetime tragedies, which the author gets a little bit heavy-handed with, but not off-puttingly so; she has relationships outside the theater where she’s just Olive, and then there’s the fact that the cast’s Macbeth seems to be all over her. Which she supposes makes her feel a little better, but not much.
After a day of filing bad photographs of bad people doing bad things, I was glad to sink into the world of Macbeth — where not-so-bad people did unspeakable things.
I really liked this one, to the point I will probably pick up the rest of the books. Ivy has places where she was grating but that actually made sense for the novel and the plot. It’s at once light and darkly funny and sad and horrendously awful, and a far cry to the good side from the rest of the terrible cozy mysteries I’ve read recently.
Also, this makes my quarter-cannonball! Yay!