I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
This amateur sleuth is a paperback edition that was published by Bantam on May 1, 1988 and has 226 pages.
Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.
Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Death on Demand, Design for Murder, Honeymoon with Murder
Third in the Death on Demand mystery series set in a bookstore specializing in mysteries and run by Annie Laurence on Broward’s Rock Island in South Carolina.
In 1989, Something Wicked won the Anthony Award for Best Paperback Original; in 1988, it won the Agatha Award for Best Novel.
There is a very Agatha Christie feel to this mystery, so it’s understandable that it won an Agatha award. I have to confess that Annie was very annoying in this story. She takes everything so seriously. Part of me wanted to either smack Annie and tell her to lighten up while another part wanted Annie to smack Max for his being so very amused by the situation. If Annie would simply remember that it’s a) her wedding and b) Laurel can’t do much without her permission, she’d have a much easier time of it — as would Max. It would probably help if Annie were to actually do something about planning her wedding instead of leaving it up in the air.
It’s too funny that Henny keeps running around helping Annie detect by assuming the costume and manner of a different fictional lady detective every day. I’m really impressed that she puts so much effort into the costuming and speech. Where does she find the time?
As always, Hart pulls in comparisons with a multitude of mystery authors, their primary themes, and the characters in their individual series. I’ve certainly been making my own list of new authors to read.
Laurel is driving Annie nuts with her suggestions about the wedding. One day it’s the Chinese tradition of wearing red and another day it’s the Korean custom of the “groom riding a donkey to the bride’s house carrying a goose and a gander as a symbol of fidelity” or the Fijian custom of giving a whale’s tooth or holding the wedding on top of a pyramid or…
Meanwhile, the Broward’s Rock Players are desperate for a financially successful season. After their playhouse burned down in January, the land’s owner, Harley Jenkins is threatening to lease the land to a retail shop. The players have to finish the season in the black, if they want Jenkins to rebuild the theater.
Doubt reigns over the first play of the season when they’re stuck with Shane Petree. His wife has promised to cover all the expenses for the play if Shane plays Teddy in Arsenic and Old Lace. And Shane is blowing their efforts with his lack of application. No one, however, can decide if it’s one of the players or Jenkins who is sabotaging the rehearsals as well.
But it’s the party at Sheridan’s house that puts Max in the frame as the killer and the sheriff is putting off Annie’s efforts to free him.
Annie Laurance runs Death on Demand, a bookstore specializing in mysteries and based on Broward’s Rock. She has a preference for fast food while Max wants healthy. Guess who’ll be doin’ the cookin’ in this household! Annie is playing Elaine in the play.
Max Darling is a wealthy lawyer playing at detective while his mother Laurel terrorizes Annie about their upcoming September wedding. Max is playing Mortimer in the play. Laurel is a wealthy globe-trotting woman who finds a new cultural tradition every other day that she wants Annie to incorporate into her simple, small wedding. A very touchy-feely, woo-woo kind of woman.
Harley Edward Jenkins III is the CEO of Halcyon Development, owner of the land on which the theater stood. Burt Conroy is president of the Broward Rock Players and stage manager. He made a deal with Sheridan Petree to cast her husband Shane as Teddy Roosevelt. Carla Fontaine runs an art gallery in town and is the set designer and chief carpenter. Arthur Killeen is the local druggist playing Dr. Einstein. Henny Brawley is one of Annie’s best customers and plays Aunt Abby. Sam Haznine is the director desperate for a hit back to the top; his current sweetie is not at all happy to be stuck on Broward’s Rock. Hugo Wolf plays Jonathan; a heavy hitter with a presence currently retired from his law career. Feel bad for T.K. Horton as he has to cope with both of his women’s obsessions: his cheating wife Janet who plays Aunt Martha and their daughter Cindy having an affair. Eugene Ferramond should have played Teddy; he’s perfect physically and obsessed with every detail about this Roosevelt’s life. Instead Eugene is playing Officer O’Hara.
Chief Saulter is on Annie and Max’s side, but he does have to abide by Posey’s rulings. Publicly. Brice Willard Posey is an idiot more impressed with his own grandstanding than actually finding out the truth. I do wish that Hart had given us some enjoyment at his “downfall”. Jed McClanahan is the lawyer Annie found for Max. Sue Kay Conrad provides a major clue in the case with help from Mrs. Harriet MacKenzie.
The Cover and Title
The cover is spooky with the red velvet theatre curtains parted exposing the trumpet, a playbook, a lit candelabra, and the floating veiled skull grinning out at us! Eeek! The label pinned to the drapery certainly doesn’t help!
The title does indeed herald Something Wicked about this group of people.