I enjoy a good mystery from time to time and decided that it was about time to try sinking my teeth into another one. I decided to take a chance on a mystery that sounded interesting even though I knew nothing about the story or the author and started “The Strangling on the Stage” by Simon Brett hoping to be entertained and challenged with a good murder mystery.
Jude agrees to lend her chaise lounge to a production of “The Devil’s Disciple” by a local amateur drama club. When she enlists her neighbor, Carole, to help her deliver the couch, neither of them is ready for what is to come when they attend a get together at a local pub after rehearsal and get to know some of the cast members. When one of the cast members turns up murdered on the set of the play itself, Jude is drawn into the intricate underworld of amateur dramatics.
What Jude finds is an intricate web of deceit and jealousy that lies beneath the polished veneer of the amateur dramatic club. As she tries to find the truth about the murder, which the police quickly deemed to be an accident, she had to untangle the many knots that the members have weaved through secret relationships, spite-filled encounters, and petty jealousies that can flare into some much more at a moment’s notice. Jude comes to find that her own life may be in danger as she comes closer to solve the mystery and can hopefully put the murderer behind bars before he, or she, can strike again.
“The Strangling on the Stage” is a part of series of Fethering Mysteries but the fact that I had never read any of the previous books did not hamper my enjoyment of this book. I have to admit that I was not prepared at all for what I found inside of the book and that is not a bad thing. While much of my reading is dark fiction or horror, “The Strangling on the Stage” is a fairly light-hearted mystery that reminded me of writers such as Agatha Christie. There was a horrible crime, a murder, but the story focused on the small clues that lead Jude to solve the mystery rather than dwelling on the murder. While I love the horror genre and the darker side of other genres, it was still nice to become lost in this simple and somewhat innocent tale that still managed to challenge my mind as I pieced the clues together along with Jude.
“The Strangling on the Stage” is fun to read and that is something that is too often missing in modern mysteries that focus more on the crime and the procedure of solving the crime rather than on the characters. This is a relatively simple story that harkens back to a previous era in which the little things that lead to leaps of human intuition are the most important elements of the story. This is not a cold police procedural but rather a tale of human struggle and error. Rather than puzzling over the case and trying to follow the carefully choreographed moves of detectives, “The Strangling on the Stage” allows the reader to become a part of the story and move along with Jude as the story unravels. This novel may not be a hit with those who like the forensic aspects of a crime story but those who revel in the human interest aspects of the crime will find a lot to love in this simple tale.
I would like to give a special thank you to Crème de la Crime and NetGalley for this advanced reading copy. “The Strangling on the Stage” is scheduled to be released by Crème de la Crime on February 1, 2014.