“Death Takes a Bow” by David S. Peterson— Murder at the Theater

Pederson, David S. “Death Takes a Bow”, (Detective Heath Barrington Mystery), Bold Strokes Books, 2019.

Murder at the Theater

Amos Lassen

Policeman Alan Keyes takes a break from his police duties to try acting itch in a local stage production. Then when the leading man is murdered during the opening night performance, Keyes’ partner Detective Heath Barrington tries to find the killer. Alan soon learns that theater has a deadly past and ghostly ideas surrounding it. There is a telegram that seems to have come from the world beyond.

The book begins with  the dress rehearsal for a Milwaukee theatre production “Death Comes to Lochwood.”  Within the large cast of characters , there are those that have a past in which a fellow actor has died or been betrayed. There is a drunken husband / ingenue wife pair, Oliver Crane, a director who wants to fill the house and an actor who is shooting for a role in a film by Alfred Hitchcock. Then there is Alan Keyes who has a small role and a Broadway star who is so obnoxious that no one can stand him. There is one more character; a ghost who haunts the theater. All of these become suspect in the murder.

Writer David Pederson cleverly uses the pre-opening night cast party to tells us about the characters and we learn about not only who they are but also about their pasts. Then Shelby Berkett, is murdered on-stage on opening night and Heath Barrington and Alan try to solve the murder.

Suspicions fall on Crane since his finances depend on the success of this play, Jazz Monroe, Milwaukee’s sweetheart who has a secret, and the handsome actor Henry Hawthorne, who is interested Alan. Alan seems to return his attentions and Heath has to deal with this in his own way and decide what is real, what is pretense, who’s acting and who’ is lying.

This is in the mode of old fashioned mysteries with lots of unpleasant characters and an interesting subplot between Heath and Alan. The book is the fourth in the Detective Heath Barrington Mystery series. I read it as a stand-alone and it was easy to follow.
Detective Heath Barrington is an observer of detail. Because of Alan, he is in the theatre the night murder is committed.

While this is classified as LGBTQ literature, it is important to say that this is not per se a “gay mystery”. Rather it is a mystery with gay characters. That Heath and Alan are a couple is part of the story, but it’s subtle and really takes place off-page. Their relationship is just a relationship and the fact that they are two men is not really important.

The rest of the cast is a collection of really unpleasant people. I found some of the supporting characters to be really interesting and this shows the author’s ability for characterization.

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