Murder at the Palace
The first in a new series, Margaret Dumas’ Murder at the Palace hit all my cozy mystery buttons.
Nora gave up her screenwriting work for marriage, but her movie star husband has just run off with his gorgeous co-star. Nora’s best friend arranges for her to move to San Francisco to run a theater that plays classic films as a way of avoiding unwanted attention.
The previous manager has recently died, and soon after Nora arrives, she finds another body in the ice machine. A mixed cast of employees — a grumpy projectionist, a distracted concession staffer, and an ancient, well-meaning ticket taker — depend on her to keep the place going in spite of murder, equipment breakdowns, and financial issues. The theater’s been struggling with small audiences, but there are indications of money coming from somewhere. Then there’s the ghost, of a 1930s usherette named Trixie.
I adored the setting, particularly the programming slates and the connections between the various old movies the theater shows and the events of the mystery. Various chapters are interspersed with movie descriptions from a blog that’s part of the plot — and you can read them here. They aren’t the usual classic references, which I appreciated, but movies I now want to seek out.
The events, characters, setting, and references all combine for a page-turner I couldn’t put down. (The publisher provided an advance digital review copy.)