Having started on my mystery kick, I decided to continue with a preview of the first book in Cindy Brown’s upcoming Ivy Meadows mystery series, MacDeath. Lighthearted and fun compared to most mystery thrillers, MacDeath makes a decent introduction for amateur sleuth, Ivy Meadows and her author, Cindy Brown.
Ivy Meadows is an actress, and a stage name for Olive Ziegwart. Eager to break into the Phoenix acting scene, she auditions and gets a part in a circus themed production of Macbeth. But not all of the would-be cast are familiar with the famous curse on the Scottish play and soon it begins to wreak havoc on the production when the actor playing the doomed Duncan dies on opening night. Only Ivy finds the death suspicious and she begins a haphazard investigation into her fellow actors that threatens most of the relationships in her life as well as her career as an actor.
There’s a certain element of the character of Ivy Meadows/Olive Ziegwart that has a ‘been there, done that,’ feel to her. My initial impressions of the character and the story were that they were very Sookie Stackhouse and True Blood but without the supernatural elements that have been done to death. This might have been due more to the choppiness of the first few chapters. There were certain friendships and relationships that the reader doesn’t get to see develop and so they initially feel forced (after reading through the audition and casting process, the four weeks of rehearsal are completely skipped over, a time jump that doesn’t help so early in the book). By the time the body drops, there’s a more distinctive feel to the character and by the halfway mark, the curves of Ivy’s well-rounded character are more prominent. With the establishment of the main character and the supporting cast around her, the reader can focus better on the case at hand.
I liked that so much Macbeth made it into the book. There were moments when it became a bit much. Ivy’s spurts of literary commentary probably weren’t necessary given how familiar most of the audience should be with the play (I had to read it no less than three times in my public school career from middle school through high school and I doubt I’m alone; it being Shakespeare’s shortest play and one of the most straightforward and bloody makes it relatively easy to teach to teenagers). The chapter titles coming from the play was a nice touch.
The book’s climax was less intense standoff and more farcical melodrama. There are elements of the crime and the murderer’s motivations that were fuzzy and could have done with better fleshing out. There were, perhaps, a few too many red herrings and not enough solid clues, but this can also be dismissed as intentional, part of Ivy’s inexperience. Regardless of the flaws with the case, for a first person narrated mystery novel, it was fun; more personality than substance, it was at least a pleasant personality to spend time with. Since this is the first book in a series, I hope that aspects of the theater world Ivy loves will continue to appear in later books, but that the cases at hand will draw her away from the stage.
MacDeath by Cindy Brown will be available for purchase January 20, 2015.