I recently had the pleasure of reading a pre-release copy of Murder in the Theater – the fourth book in Christa Nardi’s Cold Creek mystery series.
The drama program has never been so dramatic.
It’d be the season to be jolly if only someone hadn’t set the stage for murder. When a student is arrested for the crime, Professor Sheridan Hendley is cast in the role of amateur sleuth. Tensions run high, friendships are strained, and the college administration is beginning to panic. As the plot thickens Sheridan is yet again drawn deeper into danger. Will she find the truth before the final curtain call?
Having read and enjoyed the previous books in this series, I looked forward to finding out what new kind of challenge Sheridan would face.
In this short novel, Sheridan takes a level-headed approach to addressing college politics while helping identify the persons who might have had a motive to kill the community theater’s production director. A well developed character, Sheridan has both book smarts and common sense. There is nothing whimsical or ditsy about her.
Of course, fitting a story that involves thespians, many of the characters have dramatic personalities – adding color to the story. The plot unraveled at a steady pace, with a fair amount of twists and turns. I expect my fellow cozy mystery lovers will enjoy this book.
Note: Although this is the fourth book featuring Sheridan Hendley, this book is a self-contained story and can be read as a standalone.
FTC Disclosure: I received an ARC of this book from the author. This has not affected the content of my review in any way.
About the Author
Christa Nardi is and always has been an avid reader. Her favorite authors have shifted from Carolyn Keene and Earl Stanley Gardner to more contemporary mystery/crime authors over time, but mystery/crime along with romance and scifi/fantasy are her preferred choices for leisure reading.
Christa also has been a long time writer from poetry and short stories to the Cold Creek series. Christa has joined many other reader/writers in writing one genre she enjoys reading – the cozy mystery.
Christa Nardi is a pen name for a real life professor/psychologist from the Northeast.
For more information on the Cold Creek Series:
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Excerpt from Chapter 4 MURDER IN THE THEATER
“Dinner?” He rubbed his hand over his face and sat forward. He looked like he hadn’t slept while he was in Altavista.
I smiled and reached out my hand. “Ready and waiting.”
I knew better than to ask about the case and didn’t want to share Max’s theory in case it put Brett on the spot. That limited topics for conversation. I had just broached the topic of Thanksgiving again when the doorbell rang.
I shook my head and went to the door. Charlie beat me to the door and Brett followed behind me. I looked through the peephole and commented, “It’s Marty.”
I noted Brett’s jaw working but didn’t understand the sudden tension. I opened the door.
“Hi Marty. Come on in. What’s up? Are you okay?”
Marty looked a mess. An attorney, Marty Cohn most often dressed for court even when walking on the college campus. A suit, dress shirt, and tie, all perfectly pressed comprised his standard uniform. Tonight, though, his shirt was half untucked and both his shirt and pants looked like he’d slept in them. His jacket was nowhere in sight. His eyes were heavy and bloodshot – a perfect match to Brett’s. If I didn’t know Marty better, I’d have wondered if he had been on a bender.
Marty didn’t answer. He glared at Brett who stared back at him. Charlie picked up on the tension and emitted a low growl. As if on cue, the crescendo from the Phantom played. The animosity between them was palpable but I didn’t understand it. I felt helpless to diffuse the situation.
“Someone want to fill me in?”
“You want to tell her, DETECTIVE? Or should I?” Marty shouted, his face flushed and his hands clenched. Charlie growled again and I spoke softly to her to calm her. I shifted my gaze to Brett with trepidation.
“Leave her out of this Marty. She has nothing to do with it. You have to know I didn’t take any pleasure in this process. It would have gone down the same.”
“If it has nothing to do with me, then why is he here?”
I looked from Brett to Marty and back again. Marty didn’t answer and he didn’t move a muscle. It was déja vu from when I worked in a residential treatment center with teenage boys facing off over some perceived slight.
“Nobody wants to talk? Then how about we all sit down. Marty, we were eating dinner, can I fix you a plate? Get you something to drink?”
He fizzled out and slithered into the armchair, rubbing his hands over the stubble on his face. Another first. In the six months I’d known Marty, he’d never needed a shave.
Brett turned and went back into the kitchen. I followed. I looked at him with raised eyebrows silently asking him what was going on. He shook his head ever so slightly and got down another plate. Between us, we got the food and wine for all of us out to where Marty still sat, head in hands.
Brett handed Marty a glass of wine. “Here, you need this.”
Marty looked up, opened his mouth but no words came out. He took the glass of wine and then the plate and utensils I handed him. Brett and I sat on the couch with our plates, our glasses of wine nearby. Charlie sat at attention between Marty and Brett in guard mode.
I kept shifting my gaze from one man to the other for some hint as we ate. Nobody said a word and the tension remained. Marty picked at his food initially, then cleaned his plate without even looking up. I wondered when he had last eaten.
When all the plates were clean, I asked if anyone wanted more. Both men shook their heads in silence. I picked up the plates and took them to the kitchen. The sound score from Phantom was the only sound other than my heels clicking on the kitchen tile.
I rejoined the men. Neither said a word. I looked to Brett as he seemed more in control and asked again, “Could someone fill me in please?”
“What have you heard about the case in Altavista today, Sher?”
I glanced at Marty, not sure where this was going.
“The last I heard was someone had been brought in for questioning and an arrest was expected. That was early this afternoon. I haven’t checked since and didn’t catch the news tonight.”
“Isaac Waxman was arrested for the murder of William Thompson. Waxman is Marty’s nephew.”
My jaw dropped as I shifted my attention to Marty. I glanced back to Brett once the realization sunk in.
“Were you the arresting officer?”
Brett exhaled and pulled his hands through his curly hair, a sure sign he was stressed.
“I assisted in the investigation and was present when he was initially questioned and when he was arrested. For all intents and purposes, this is still local jurisdiction. The Altavista Police Chief officially made the arrest. Waxman is scheduled for arraignment in two days.”
He hesitated before he added, “One other thing, Sher. Isaac is a sophomore at Cold Creek College. He’s in Fine Arts.”
Brett held my gaze and I felt the tension rise as my eyes opened wider. Marty still didn’t say anything and his head was back in his hands. We sat there for a few more minutes in silence.