Monday, June 30, 2014

"Murder at the Mikado" by Julianna Deering; or, Merriment and Murder with Gilbert and Sullivan

Cover ArtIn the third Drew Farthering Mystery, Julianna Deering sends her hero to the theatre Tivoli, where an old flame is being accused of murder.  Though neither Drew nor his fiancee Madeline is thrilled with the prospect of working with the actress who broke Drew's 18-year-old heart, Drew sees it as his duty to forgive and take the case, and thus they immerse themselves in the theatrical world of Gilbert and Sullivan. 

By half-way through the novel I hit on a brilliant idea and pegged the murderer.  Except, then the characters picked up on those clues that I was so proud to catch first, and my suspect became a genuine suspect a little too early on, and what with one thing or another, I fell for a red herring.  So I can assert that the mystery is well written, as I did not guess the proper murderer this time. 

I thoroughly enjoy Deering's cheeky wit - the novel is full of references to Gilbert and Sullivan (The Mikado itself being the title of an opera by the pair).  Conversations are brimming with punny plays on song titles (and I'm sure a number of them went over my head), one of the more obvious being Drew's promise to Inspector Birdsong, "I'll be the very model of a modern sleuthing amateur" ("I am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General" of Pirates of Penzance fame).  Nick, Drew's best friend, is overloaded with wit and comedic timing as per usual. 

I really appreciate that though these are largely humorous books, there is a serious side to them.  Murder is not a lark, and they do treat it seriously.  Drew and Madeline have a discussion of Drew's past early on in the story (which, if they had participated in today's premarital counseling, would have come up by now), and it takes a while to work through it, especially when combined with Madeline's insecurities. 

My favorite Drew Farthering Mystery is still probably Death by the Book, but this one firmly settles Drew and Madeline's relationship, really digging into their pasts and challenging whether their whirlwind romance will stand the test of time.  A thoroughly enjoyable read in the style of the classic mystery masters - 4.5 stars!

Thank you Bethany House and NetGalley for providing a free e-copy of the novel for a review; I was not required to make it positive, and all opinions are my own.

Drew Farthering Mysteries
1. Rules of Murder
2. Death by the Book
3. Murder at the Mikado
4. Dressed for Death 
5. Murder on the Moor
6. Death at Thorburn Hall

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