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Cindy Brown has been a theater geek (musician, actor, director, producer, and playwright) since her first professional gig at age 14. Now a full-time writer, she’s lucky enough to have garnered several awards (including 3rd place in the 2013 international Words With Jam First Page Competition, judged by Sue Grafton!) and is an alumnus of the Squaw Valley Writers Workshop. Though Cindy and her husband now live in Portland, Oregon, she made her home in Phoenix, Arizona, for more than 25 years and knows all the good places to hide dead bodies in both cities.
This is so fun! Even if you're not into Shakespeare, you cannot help but be pulled into this story of a struggling actress trying to make good. The production of Macbeth is a hoot. Even if the reader knows nothing of the play, one couldn't miss the absurd approach to it by the director. Ms. Brown has given us a protagonist filled with flaws, but flaws she faces as they rear their ugly heads. This makes her very real and, frankly, slightly noble. I understand this is Ms. Brown' first novel. I think she has a promising writing career ahead of her.
Author Cindy Brown is new to me and while I see that she has now written four books in this series, “Macdeath” is her debut novel. Whether it is a debut book or one written by a long standing novelist, it is outstanding. The plot is fun and different, the characters memorable (for both their good and bad traits) and the mystery was a great whodunnit – pointing you this way and that before being solved.
Ivy Meadows (aka Olive Zeigwart) is an actress – well, she has just been cast as a witch in Macbeth. So what if it took literal somersaults and cartwheels to get the part. This version of Macbeth is being set in a circus. All seems going well when one of her cast mates ends up dying on opening night. While everyone, police included, are figuring the death was natural causes, Ivy is not so sure. She starts investigating and ends up well over her head in clues and false starts.
The situations and characters in this book made me laugh out loud. From the beginning as Ivy is struggling to get to her audition to her constant issues with her (accidentally shrunk) too small costume to the unveiling of whodunnit, Ivy is hysterical. Her cast mates from Candy Moonpie (her buddy who shares her dressing room) to Bill Boxer, the face of Channel 10, made for a memorable and amusing read.
In addition to a fun mystery, the book also gives the reader a peek at what goes on backstage. I was not surprised to read (afterward) that the author has a background in theater. The book has a very authentic feel to the theater setting.
I plan to read all of the books in this series and am looking forward to Ivy/Olive's next adventure in sleuthing.
I spent a month one summer as an actor in Franconia Notch, New Hampshire. It was a great experience, especially for someone who was about to join the Army and, eventually, spend a couple of tours in Vietnam. I had done some acting before that - Shakespeare even - and later, after the Army, a little more in community theaters when I lived in Ohio. When, as a result, I saw Cindy Brown's "Macdeath" I thought I'd give it a read to see if she could capture the sense - and nonsense - that defines small-time theater in the context of a murder mystery. Sounds easy but it's really not. I mean, unless you've spent some time doing live theater it's hard to write authentically about the stomach-clenching feeling you get before a performance or the petty jealousies that are a staple of short-run community productions. Brown does that remarkably well in "Macdeath" while also fashioning a clever murder mystery complete with red herrings, interesting characters, and a dash of romance. The action takes place in Phoenix during an especially hot autumn and features aspiring actress Ivy Meadows (her real name is - well, that's not important I guess except to say that she pretty much had to change it.) She's a waitress at an Olive Garden when the story opens; it's how she pays the rent while trying to pursue an acting career. When she's cast as a witch in "The Scottish Play" she thinks she's about to take a giant step toward her goal. Maybe. Maybe not. Things start to go wrong right from the start when a buffoonish newscaster unknowingly invokes the play's legendary curse by saying "Macbeth" in the theater. It's not long after that unfortunate utterance that one of the play's main characters is found dead in his dressing room. Ivy thinks the death is suspicious, though no one else does - including the cops, her private investigator uncle, and the medical examiner. Determined to find out what really happened, she begins her own investigation. Brown has effectively captured the small world of live theater and what happens when an amateur detective gets involved in a homicide. Unlike many amateur detectives, Ivy is not blessed with great investigative skills nor especially keen insights: That's a plus for me because I really find it hard to believe that someone can walk in off the street and solve a crime with a few quick observations. All that Ivy really has going for her is the fact that she knew the dead man and cannot believe he died as the police think he did. She makes mistakes along the way - plenty of them - and gets herself in trouble more than once. As a result, I have to say that I very much enjoyed Ivy as a character. She has massive guilt issues involving a childhood accident, doesn't get along with her parents, really wants to be in a relationship, and is determined to be an actress no matter the cost. Brown's narrative flows along smoothly and her descriptions of hot days (and nights) in Phoenix are both spot on and really funny. The secondary characters in "Macdeath" are well fleshed out, another big plus, and she has a nice ability to put the reader "in the moment." The verdict: A very nice read and a book I definitely recommend to those who like murder mysteries with interesting characters and not a lot of gore.
Cindy Brown's books came highly recommended and the reason is clear. MacDeath is intelligent and witty and it has a distinctively feel to it. Both the intricately plotted mystery and the singular characters are the kind of elements that stand out long after final chapter of the book is closed. It is not surprising to find unusual and strong characters among actors but I found Ivy's uncle as special as any of the other characters.
While the an actor's death haunts Ivy, the reason that she feels so compelled to solve what she is sure is murder is slowly revealed to us. This back story was one of my favorite parts of the story and helped me attach to Ivy even more that the time I spent with her in the theater. This beautifully built back story was the part of the novel that moved Ms Brown's status from an-author-that-I-highly-recommend to that special place in my heart of one of "my authors".
I have the next two books loaded on my Kindle and ready to go!