A Fatal First Night

Kensington. (Ella Shane Mystery, Bk. 2). May 2021. 304p. ISBN 9781496727244. $26. M
In Kalb’s second “Ella Shane” mystery (after A Fatal Finale), Irish Jewish opera singer Ella prepares for the debut of a new opera. She specializes in trouser roles; the new opera, The Princes in the Tower, tells the story of Richard III during the War of the Roses. Ella and her cousin Tommy Hurley, the composer Louis Abramovitz, and her costar Marie d’Artois navigate their opening-night jitters and enjoy great success. After that night’s show, the male lead, Albert Reuter, is found hunched over a dead body. Ella does not think he’s guilty; she must find a way to prove it, while keeping the show on schedule. When her aristocratic suitor, Duke Gilbert Saint Aubin, arrives from London on a business trip, things become more complicated. For Ella, solving the mystery now takes a backseat to dealing with romantic feelings and detailed rumination about balancing career and marriage—a difficult task in Gilded Age New York.
VERDICT Readers who enjoy historical mysteries with a touch of romance will enjoy the period details and strong female characters, as well as Ella’s colorful parrot, Montezuma.
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