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Death Troupe Kindle Edition
"Killman Creek" by Rachel Caine
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Being a fan of murder mystery shows, I delighted in the depth of research that brought the characters and the work surrounding the production to life.
This is a long, well-structured book that will delight mystery lovers and theater goers alike.
Author of The End of Marking Time
The joy in this story comes primarily from two elements that are extremely well executed in O'Neal's friendly mystery - an intense sense of place, and a fascinating and original meta-concept involving a theater troupe that performs a single, unique masterpiece thriller once a year.
The setting is the chilly North of the Adirondacks, and Mr. O'Neal's love of the region comes through clearly in his descriptions, both of the small town where the story takes place, and of day-to-day life through the changing seasons.
The story follows Jack Glynn, the once and future senior writer for the itinerant "Death Troupe" players, who create a customized play for the inhabitants of a different town each year. As the writer, Jack heads to the town months in advance of the rest of the troupe, and we grow familiar with life in the snowy northern town at the same pace as Jack does. His explorations lead to familiarity and to artistic inspiration, and we follow him on this journey, until the town has a welcome and lived-in quality, populated by the smells of rugged sweaters and parkas, the feel of deep snow, and visions of ice sculptures and meandering cross-country ski trails. O'Neal does a magnificent job bringing this landscape to life, and I felt like I'd had the experience of wintering there myself.
The idea of a troupe that performs a single, one-time-only play but once a year sounds odd and less than credible at first. That's what makes this concept such a triumph - the hows and whys, including logistical and economic considerations, have been thoroughly thought out by O'Neal, which makes the whole crazy scheme hold together with a relentless logic. I was converted from thinking the idea stretched credulity, to wondering why such an institution doesn't exist in real life. If we're lucky, someone will start up a real-life Death Troupe, and let the real world enjoy the fun O'Neal's troupe and townies clearly have with the whole idea.
Other lynchpins in this work include solid character development and sweet, realistic romantic entanglements. The central mystery is solid and will keep you guessing.
The care with which the author enters the mind of narrator and unlikely hero Jack Glynn also helps bring the story and the world to life. The end result is a very safe and pleasant read, a story that lends itself to being consumed at a comfortable pace, and whose world, ideas and characters will linger in the reader's mind for a long and pleasant time.