Death of a Showman

Minotaur: St. Martin’s. (Jane Prescott Mysteries, Bk. 4). Apr. 2021. 288p. ISBN 9781250210906. $26.99. M
In the fourth “Jane Prescott” mystery (following Death of an American Beauty), Fredericks’s early 1900s sleuth/maid Jane encounters murder and heartbreak in New York City’s theater district. When Jane and her employers, Louise and William Tyler, return to New York after a season in Europe, Jane hears that her former beau, composer Leo Hirschfeld, has made it big with a Broadway show in the works—and he has married chorus girl Violet Tempest. Jane is confused and hurt, even though she broke it off with Leo before leaving for the Continent, when he told her he wasn’t the marrying kind. But Leo reenters Jane’s world when he asks Louise to be a backer of his show. It wouldn’t be proper for Louise to go to the theater alone, so Jane accompanies her to rehearsals. They meet a motley cast of characters: Violet; a famous dancing duo; a comic actress and her caddish paramour; and volatile and vicious producer Sidney Warburton. When Warburton is killed at a famous theater eatery, the suspects are many, including Leo. Jane has her issues with Leo, but she’s certain he’s not a murderer. She and a friend, newspaperman Michael Behan, investigate all the other possibilities.
VERDICT With a spirited, intelligent heroine; pitch-perfect descriptions of pre–World War I New York; and believable characters, Fredericks’s latest historical mystery is a delight.
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