Something Wicked

I’m back at it with Annie Laurance and Max Darling. Sometimes I see a long series and am excited at how much time I’ll get to spend with characters; at other times I feel like I’ll never get through them all. This is only number three of twenty-two, so I guess I’ll be reading Carolyn Hart’s books for years to come.

The title of Something Wicked suggests a connection to Macbeth, but the plot revolves around a very different play. Annie and Max, with their Broadway past, are starring as the young lovers in the summer theater’s production of Arsenic and Old Lace. The show starts in a week, but the production is plagued with two problems. First, aged Hollywood beach-movie star Shane Petree is a horrible fit for the part of Teddy and would rather chase skirts than learn his lines. His wife Sheridan is backing the play, however, so the cast is stuck with him. Even worse, however, are the slight incidents occurring on and off stage. Props are sabotaged, a stink bomb is set off, and a cast member’s cat is found dead in the window seat.

Soon, however, the production has a bigger corpse and bigger problem when Shane himself turns up dead from a bullet wound in the middle of rehearsal.The circuit solicitor seems determined to pin this on Max because of his blase attitude, and because Shane made a pass at Annie. Finding the murder weapon in his bedroom doesn’t help either. Annie and Chief Saulter will have to use all their wits to clear his name, and come up with a culprit when everyone else has either a solid alibi or no motive.

First things first: don’t pick up this book if you’re not familiar with Arsenic. I though I’d be okay because I knew the premise and had seen about fifteen minutes, but I could tell early on that that didn’t cut it. Parts of the book depend on what roles the characters play, and who is or isn’t onstage at certain times. I ended up watching the movie last weekend, and when I reread the first chapter (and continued the rest of the book) everything made so much more sense. I recommend Arsenic and Old Lace even if you’re not reading this! It’s a comic gem, and Cary Grant is wonderful as always.

Carolyn Hart tries to provide her own humor in this book as well. Henny Brawley, the persistent customer and wannabe sleuth from previous books, has become more tolerable to Annie since they are costars. She’s the first one to smell a rat in the current production, and spends most of her time snooping around–but she does so by channeling fictional sleuths, down to speech and costume. Miss Marple is a particular favorite.

On the personal front, Annie’s soon-to-be mother-in-law Laurel is determined to take the reins of the upcoming wedding. She has a very broad mind and plans to incorporate random elements from wedding traditions around the world into the ceremony. Annie spends half the book freaking out about this and trying to avoid her. I wouldn’t peg Annie as a character afraid to speak his mind, but maybe she’s finally met her match. What makes it worse is that Max is totally on bard with his mother.

Some elements of the series are getting a bit stale. While I initially found Annie and Max’s use of lists to sum up suspect profiles and key information refreshing, it felt a little bit overdone in this book. Also, I’d like a slightly different impetus for the couple’s involvement in the crime, please. The last two books had Annie falsely accused of a crime, so clearly now it was Max’s turn. It’s also sometimes hard to keep track of everyone (which is why Carolyn Hart includes the lists, I guess). Her standard method seems to be to provide a large cast, and keep you going in circles among them until the big reveal at the end.

I have to admit that the ending surprised me; I’m not sure how I feel about it. I do know, however, that my biggest complaint by far with the book is typographical. It’s neat when books start each chapter with a script capital letter, or italics. But putting the first three words in a sans serif font when the rest isn’t? Not cool, Bantam. That random jump from Arial to Times New Roman threw me off every single chapter, and I’m not exaggerating.

One of the highlights of the series is still the constant reference to other mysteries. Lady Molly of Scotland Yard is most definitely going on my reading list! Each book also always features five painting of book scenes Annie has hanging in the store for customers to try to identify as part of a contest. I wish I could remember books with that level of detail! I was so pleased when I recognized one of the books this time around, but it turned to disappointment at the big reveal when I realized I own the other four books as well and have read at least one. Oh well, maybe I’ll get more next time!

Published in: on April 17, 2012 at 1:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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