by Sandra Murphy
& Cindy Brown
This week we have a review of The Sound of Murder by Cindy Brown, along with a fun guest post by Cindy about the theatre setting of her books. Details at the end of this post on how to win a copy of the book, along with a link to purchase it.
The Sound of Murder: An Ivy Meadows Mystery By Cindy Brown
Review by Cynthia Chow
Even with coffee, Ivy Meadows is not at her best in the morning. Without it… well, perhaps that explains why she finds herself sitting on her apartment stairs dressed only in a towel, flirting with a friendly fireman as his coworkers extinguish the fire in her kitchen. Essentially homeless while her apartment is being repaired, a fellow actor’s offer of a house-sitting job seems perfect.
Sunnydale may be a retirement community for the 55 and up, but the deciding factor in its favor is that it is just minutes from the Desert Magic Dinner Theater where Ivy is performing in The Sound of Cabaret, the original world premiere of a combination of The Sound of Music and Cabaret. As an actress about to be featured in a musical, however, Ivy is probably going to have to overcome her inability to sing in public.
Ivy’s initial enthusiasm is dampened considerably when a transposed address has her discovering the body of one of her new neighbors, suffocated by carbon monoxide in his garage. Amy Small is adamant that her Christian father would never have committed suicide, and she wants to hire Ivy to discover the truth. Because while Ivy (her legal name is Olive Ziegwart) is an aspiring actress, she also hopes to be a real private detective working for her uncle’s Duda Detective Agency. Ivy may not have a license, nor may she have a lot of investigative experience, but even she knows that eight recent suicides in Sunnydale is a big flashing signal that something’s wrong.
This is a mystery that has as much fun delving into the musical-theater world as it does the investigation of a budding detective. Readers should be wary of underestimating Ivy, as despite the cuteness that many take for naïveté, she proves far savvier than one would expect in a pretty ingénue. Ivy relates all too well to Amy’s need to make up for not being there to care for her father, as Ivy is also driven by guilt over her disabled brother Cody (a burden that has led to her being completely terrified of all bodies of water). The author blends theater lore with a deeper psychological layer, and always on stage is her delightful sense of humor. The concept of a mash-up of the Sound of Music and Cabaret is as brilliant as it is ripe for absurdity, and readers will thoroughly enjoy this extremely fun mystery that entertains until the final curtain call.
There’s Mystery Behind the Curtains
By Cindy Brown
Write what you know, they say.
“My name is Ivy Meadows and I am an actress!” The air-condition-less car was heating up, but the affirmation was sounding better. I was getting used to my new name. It had taken me awhile to come up with it. I had tried what my drag queen friends do – that is, taking the name of your first pet and combining it with the name of the street where you grew up. They came up with great names like Mitzi Eldorado or Squeaky Dora, but mine ended up being Stubby Rural Route Number Two. So instead I took my name from a subdivision off the 51 that has neither ivy nor meadows, this being Phoenix and all.
Something tickled. I looked down. Sweat rivulets were streaking dark indigo stripes down my peacock-blue blouse. The dashboard clock showed just twenty minutes before my scheduled audition time. No time to go home and change. Dang, dang, dang! I really wanted this gig. Getting cast in this show could launch my career in acting.
I could do this. After all, “My name is Ivy Meadows and I am an actress!” I turned the fan on high, stepped on the gas, and zoomed toward the theater.
That’s my protagonist Ivy Meadows, in her first adventure, Macdeath, and yeah, it’s also a bit of me. I was an actress and I did use a stage name after my agent and I had the following conversation:
Me: I’m getting married (this was to my former husband).
My agent: Congratulations! What’s your new name going to be?
Me: Cindy Siegwart.
My agent: (snorting with laughter) No, it’s not!
I also had an air-conditioning mishap on a hot summer day on the way to an important audition (I did not get the part).
And I acted in Macbeth and in The Sound of Music (which is parodied in my second book, The Sound of Murder).
Like many theater people, I didn’t just act, but taught, directed, produced, and wrote. I never really intended to write anything other than play scripts and screenplays until the day I woke up with a character in my head: Ivy Meadows, actress and part-time private investigator. Ivy didn’t fit into a play. I had too many ideas for her. And then there was the PI bit. I don’t know if I was influenced by my love of mysteries, or by a former cast mate who moonlighted as a private investigator, but I knew Ivy was going to be a detective, not a great one at first, but she’d grow into it. That was another piece of the character puzzle: I wanted Ivy to have a long learning curve, as a PI, as an actor, and as a person. That meant that she needed not just her own book, but her own mystery series –set in the off, off, OFF Broadway world of theater.
Funny thing, when I originally wrote that tagline, I had tacked onto the end: “where the best drama happens offstage.” An actor friend took exception to that statement. “The best drama happens onstage,” he insisted. Maybe; after all, there are amazing actors and wonderful plays and the occasional gaffes that make live theater great (like the time my bikini top flew off during a musical number). But offstage, that’s where the relationships are built: where short-lived romances burn bright, where petty jealousies fester, and lifelong friendships are born. To me, that’s the stuff of mystery, the human entanglements that drive people to do horrible things, and to do wonderful things.
Theater is not only beautiful onstage, but offstage as well. The theater community is much like a family – sometimes loving, sometimes dysfunctional, but always there for each other in a pinch. I often hear about the ego and insecurity of theatre folk, but I wanted to show the genuine love, for the art and for each other, and the sense of belonging that comes with this crazy family. In The Sound of Murder, when Ivy needs a place to stay after burning up her apartment, she says, “I wondered briefly if I could stay at the theater. There was a couch, a kitchen, and a bathroom. Even more, it felt like home. Every theater I’d been in did. It was funny, but I was most comfortable in my own skin in a place where I pretended to be someone else. I’m sure a therapist would have a ball with that, but I felt lucky I’d found my tribe.”
So sure, I chose theater as the setting for my mysteries because it’s what I know and because there’s great opportunity for comedy and drama, but also because I wanted to show its heart. A theater blogger recently wrote, “Brown worked in theatre for years, and she gets the charm, craziness, ego, fear, silliness, and bravery of the people who make shows happen.” Good. That’s what I wanted to put down on the page.
That plus a murder, of course.
To enter to win a copy of The Sound of Murder, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Sound,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 24, 2015. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.
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