Death at the Theater: Mysteries with Drama
Mysteries, suspense novels, thrillers, and crime novels involving plays, playwriting, acting, actors and actresses, opera, theatrical drama, and other elements relating to the theater. This list was originally compiled by Ruth Griener, former librarian living in Pennsylvania, with additions by me.
Adamson, Lydia (aka Frank King)
- The Alice Nestleton 'cat' series; Nestleton is an actress-turned sleuth.
The theater or stage is a particular focus in the specific titles listed below.
- A Cat in the Wings (1992): Peter Dobrynin, former ballet great, has been shot dead backstage at the Lincoln Center. When police pin the murder on Alice Nestleton's friend, Alice starts snooping for clues among New York's homeless.
- A Cat in a Glass House (1993): Alice Nestleton, after years in off-, off-off-, and far-beyond-Broadway theater, sees stardom beckoning at last.
- A Cat With No Regrets (1994): #8. Alice lands a part in a major motion picture. With her two finicky felines and the three Abyssinians owned by producer Dorothy Dodd tagging along, she heads for Provence, France, where violent death awaits.
- A Cat in a Chorus Line (1996): Two gorgeous Maine coon cats hold the clues to a killing as actress-turned-sleuth Alice Nestleton and her significant other, Tony Basillio, become eyewitnesses to the murder of the hateful wife of Broadway mogul Peter Nelson Krispus.
- Dancers in Mourning (1960): An Albert Campion mystery. Also released as Who Killed Chloe?. Set in Britain. Strange pranks are being played on dancer Jimmy Sutane, star of London's Argosy Theatre.
- Trixie Dolan and Evangeline (Eve) Sinclair series, featuring aging starlets.
Set in Britain.
- Reel Murder (1986): Introduces Eve and Trixie to solve the murders of actors who are performing in a rerun of one of Eve's old films.
- Encore Murder (1989): Trixie plays detective when murder seems to implicate her daughter.
- Shadows in Their Blood (1993): Eve and Trixie Dolan are starring again, shooting a new Dracula film in an isolated old abbey.
- Break a Leg Darlings (1995): Trixie and Eve balk at the idea of playing the traditional roles reserved for actresses of their advanced years. So they pool their creative energies and scour the London Pub Theater scene for the perfect part.
- Death and the Chaste Apprentice (1989): A Charlie Peace mystery, set in Britain. It's festival time and the Saracen's Head, a well-preserved Jacobean inn is hosting the performance of 'The Chaste Apprentice of Bowe.' The Saracen's Head is now being run by a new landlord, an Austrian know-it-all with an instinct for power. His activities bring him into conflict with actors and committee, causing such friction that it is not at all surprising that it all ends in death.
- Michael Spraggue series; Spraggue is a wealthy Boston detective-turned-actor.
- Blood Will Have Blood (1982): Michael Spraggue solving a theatrical mystery that takes place during rehearsals for a production of Dracula.
- Bitter Finish (1983): Michael Spraggue is in the middle of making a trashy Hollywood movie when he's summoned to wine country to help an old friend beat a murder rap.
- Dead Heat (1984): The Boston marathon sets the pace for murder on the run. (Not sure of
- Cities of the Dead (1986): Michael Spraggue's eccentric Aunt Mary's cook is accused of murdering her ex during a banquet staged by the Great Chefs of New Orleans.
- Baxt, a playwright and scriptwriter himself, wrote 13 books in a movie-themed murder series,
all featuring Jacob Singer, a 1940s Hollywood private eye:
- The Dorothy Parker Murder Case (1984)
- The Alfred Hitchcock Murder Case (1986)
- The Tallulah Bankhead Murder Case (1987)
- The Talking Pictures Murder Case (1990)
- The Greta Garbo Murder Case (1992)
- The Noel Coward Murder Case (1992)
- The Mae West Murder Case (1993)
- The Marlene Dietrich Murder Case (1993)
- The Bette Davis Murder Case (1994)
- The Humphrey Bogart Murder Case (1995)
- The William Powell and Myrna Loy Murder Case (1996): "Baxt's caricature of the notoriously histrionic Louis B. Mayer will amuse all movie buffs" (Booklist).
- The Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Murder Case (1997)
- The Clark Gable and Carole Lombard Murder Case (1997)
- Murder Without Makeup (1940): Death strikes at the most fashionable opening night of the season.
Boucher, Anthony (aka William Anthony Parker White)
- The Case of the Solid Key (1941): Features Fergus O'Breen as the detective. A fascinating look at 1940s Hollywood, the novel focuses on a bunch of young people who, like Boucher himself at the time, were trying to break into the film industry.
- Series featuring Emily Silver, New York actress
- In the Dark (1995): Twenty years after fleeing in terror from the scene of her parents' murder in New York, actress Emily Silver attends the premiere of her first movie at a Los Angeles theater and hears behind her the same whispering voice that drove her into hiding as a girl that night. When she tells her lover, trucker Mike Florio, what she's heard, he promises to have his friend Dev in New York look into it, then gets killed himself hours after he promises to reveal what Dev dug up.
- Chill of Summer (1995): Second mystery featuring actress Emily Silver.
- Charles Paris series. Paris is a charming, middle-aged, alcoholic actor.
The books are set in Britain.
- Cast, In Order of Disappearance (1975): First novel.
- So Much Blood (1976): Paris solving murder at the Edinburgh Festival.
- Star Trap (1977):
- An Amateur Corpse (1978): Paris solving a murder while on the set of an amateur theater company's production of Chekhov.
- A Comedian Dies (1979): Murder at music hall in small English seaside town sleuthed by Paris.
- The Dead Side of the Mike (1980): Murder at the BBC. When Andrea Gower, the beautiful studio manager is murdered, the producer's only concern is the dead air emanating from the transmitter. But Paris, the now famous actor/detective, has come to Broadcasting House to give a talk, and ends up as a mystery voice on a showbiz quiz show.
- Situation Tragedy (1981): West End Television is planning a new situation-comedy series, to be called 'The Struttters,' but from the outset, things go horribly wrong with the new series. Odd accidents remove, one by one, the sharp-tongued production assistant, the self-effacing scriptwriter, and the hearty floor manager.
- Murder Unprompted (1982): Trouble starts the first night of the play, as the star can't remember his lines, and worse, he's shot dead on stage.
- Murder in the Title (1983): A suspicious suicide at an ailing provincial theatre, investigated by Charles Paris, an actor on his way down. (He plays a corpse in 'The Message Is Murder')
- Not Dead, Only Resting (1984):
- A Dead Giveaway (1985): Veteran British character actor Paris is usually thankful for any work, but appearing in the pilot episode of the game show 'If the Cap Fits' is a new low. Paris is not even a celebrity panelist, only a mere member of the public whose occupation must be guessed. In time he's enlisted to prove the innocence of a young woman arrested when the show's sleazy dies of cyanide poisoning.
- What Bloody Man Is That? (1987): Paris in 'MacBeth.'
- A Series of Murders (1989): Paris, now in television series, starts sleuthing when an actress is killed.
- Corporate Bodies (1991): Paris's current role as forklift operator in a publicity shoot for Delmoleen Foods draws sneers even from the operator he's replacing, and Charles is upstaged when the forklift is used to kill brassy typist Dayna Richman.
- A Reconstructed Corpse (1994): Playing the missing Martin Earnshaw on a true crime television program, actor-detective Paris believes his career has hit a new low and begins to suspect that the production team is orchestrating its own subject material.
- Sicken and So Die (1995): Paris is in a touring production of Twelfth Night, playing Sir Toby Belch, when the director succumbs to a mysterious case of food poisoning.
- Dead Room Farce (1997): Paris in a three-month run of 'Not on Your Wife!,' a new farce by the prolific British farceur Bill Blunden, when someone in the cast kills Charles' friend Mark, who runs a recording studio in Bath where Charles is making a talking book.
- Invitation To a Funeral: A Tale of Restoration Intrigue (1998): Spy-turned-playwright Aphra Behn is having more than her share of troubles. Set in Britain.
- Cat's Cradle (2001): An Elizabeth Blair mystery. Blair is an American quilt shop owner in Bath, England. An actress, preparing for a performance at Bath's famous Theatre Royal, dies and her ex-lover claims it was murder. The Shepard Agency is hired to find the killer and finds a cat's cradle of treachery, malice and distrust.
- Cue for Murder (1954): Mal Wilton had good reason to kill Grady O' Halloran, his ex-boss and Broadway's one-time boy genius. And Mal had the opportunity. He just didn't happen to do it. But someone did and before the police caught up with Mal he had to find a killer.
- The Inspector John Coffin series features Coffin as a police
inspector and his wife, Stella Pinero, as an actress, in London, England.
- Dead in a Row (1957)
- The Dull Dead (1958)
- The Murdering Kind (1958)
- Death Lives Next Door (1960)
- Make Me a Murderer (1961)
- Coffin in Oxford (1962)
- A Coffin for Baby (1963)
- Coffin Waiting (1964)
- A Coffin in Malta (1964)
- A Nameless Coffin (1966)
- Coffin Following (1968)
- Coffin's Dark Number (1969)
- A Coffin from the Past (1970)
- A Coffin for the Canary (1974)
- Coffin on the Water (1986)
- Coffin in Fashion (1987)
- Coffin Underground (1988)
- Coffin in the Black Museum (1989)
- Coffin and the Paper Man (1991)
- Coffin on Murder Street (1992): American actress Nell Casey, in London appearing in a theatre festival -- run by Inspector Coffin's lover -- appeals to the police when she feels her son is in danger. Then the boy disappears. Was he kidnapped? Did his mother arrange it as a publicity stunt?
- Cracking Open a Coffin (1993)
- A Coffin for Charley (1994)
- The Coffin Tree (1994)
- A Dark Coffin (1995)
- A Double Coffin (1998)
- Coffin's Game (1999)
- A Grave Coffin (2000)
- Coffin's Ghost (2001)
- Coffin Knows the Answer (2003)
Carl, Lillian Stewart
- Memory and Desire (2000): Claire came to the English village to find her best friend, Melinda, who'd vanished after performing in a play that recreates a seventeenth-century witchcraft trial.
Carlson, P. M.
- Audition for Murder (1985)
- Rehearsal for Murder: A Maggie Ryan Mystery (1988): The murder of a Broadway musical star. Ryan is a professor and statistician in NYC; her husband is an actor.
Carr, John Dickson
- Panic in Box C (1966): Features Dr. Gideon Fell and Philip Knox, as companion-in-detection in this detective story about the theatre, set in Britain.
- Murder in Three Acts (1934): Featuring Hercule Poirot. When tee-totaling Reverend Babbington indulges in a cocktail at a glittering soiree, he falls over dead. Since there was no motive and no trace of poison, the case is closed until an identical death occurs a few weeks later with the same group of guests. Set in Britain.
- His Claire Gray series features a theatrical director in Palm Springs, California.
- Rehearsing (1993): Not a mystery but features Claire Gray, who becomes enmeshed in the life of George, a local actor who's gay.
- Desert Autumn (2001): Claire has accepted an offer to be the theater department chair at Desert Arts College.
- Desert Winter (2003)
- Unexpected Night (1934): With Detective Henry Gamadge. The discovery of young Amberly Cowden's body at the base of a cliff, as well as the strange events apparently related to the impoverished acting troupe at the Cove, disrupt Gamage's restful golf retreat.
- Jocelyn O'Rourke series. O'Rourke is a New York/Hollywood actress.
- Murder on Cue (1983): Aspiring actress Jocelyn O'Roarke vowed she'd made her last diaper commercial. Her new job as understudy to the leading lady in a smash Broadway play was sure to make her a star. She'd even captured the heart of the dashing leading man. All she needed was the chance to go on. Too bad the way she got it was murder.
- First Hit of the Season (1984): A caustic critic has been murdered and O'Rourke must discern whom among his many detractors was angry enough to deliver the final cut.
- Death Mask (1988): Theatrical mystery centering on Shaw's 'Major Barbara'.
- Dead Pan (1992): Out of work actress Jocelyn O'Roarke is thrilled when a friend invites her to Hollywood to work on a movie. No sooner does she arrive than the director of photography turns up dead. Now with the help of heterosexual hairstylist Jack Breedlove she searches for the killer.
- The Queen is Dead (1994): Set in upstate New York.
- Who Dropped Peter Pan? (1995): The star of a New York production of Peter Pan is murdered.
- Alibi for an Actress (1993): An Annie McGrogan Mystery; she's an actress and a part-time P.I. When an actress' husband is found dead, Annie McGrogan gives a triumphant, heart-stopping performance to trap a murderer in a kinky case that only she can solve.
- Spadework: A Novel (2002): On a summer evening in Stratford, Ontario, home of the Shakespeare Festival, the errant thrust of a gardener's spade slices a telephone cable into instant silence. The resulting disconnection is devastating. With the failure of one call to reach the house, an ambitious young actor becomes the victim of sexual blackmail. The blocking of a second call leads tragically to murder. Subplot concerning the serial murders of women in neighboring towns. Magical realism.
- Don't Whistle 'Macbeth (Programme Notes by Brigid Brophy) (1976): Set during a performance of Don Giovanni in an English opera house in the countryside. Told through the eyes of a young man in love with one of the singers, he sees something and finds himself in a dangerous and awkward position!
- Mirror Image (1988): A very different suspense novel in which an aging actress and her daughter are conned by some clever actors, some of whom cross-dress for their roles.
- The Devil's Stronghold (1948): She was to be Hollywood's biggest star -- until a hidden killer cast her for murder. Featuring Colonel Primrose.
- Cool Repentance (1982): A Jemima Shore Mystery. Jemima Shore, TV investigative reporter, is assigned to cover a theatre festival in the British seaside town of Larminster. But the offstage dramatics are far more compelling. Within the cast and crew of the local production of 'The Seagull,' Jemima uncovers a hotbed of artistic ego, jealousy, and cutthroat ambition.
- Lindy Haggerty series.
- Backstage Murder (1999): Helping a friend out with a favor, Lindy Haggerty agrees to put her dance shoes back on to rescue a troubled show. But Lindy has no idea what lies ahead.
- High Seas Murder (2000): Lindy Haggerty is on a holiday cruise, and the most feared and despised music critic in the world is murdered while on board.
- Midsummer Murder (2001): Lindy and her company are at the prestigious Easton Arts Retreat, a writers and visual arts colony, in upstate New York, beset by private jealousies and public ambition.
- Halloween Murder (2002): Former dancer turned sleuth Lindy Haggerty takes the job of director of a small-town Halloween carnival. But the night's ghoulish festivities become all too frighteningly real when pranks turn to murder.
Frommer, Sara Hoskinson
- Murder and Sullivan (1997): A Joan Spencer Mystery. During a performance of a Gilbert and Sullivan opera, a murder is committed.
- Death of a Critic: an Alex Grismolet Mystery (1996): Moments after his late arrival for the premiere of Eurydice, theatrical critic Virgile de la Pagerie collapses and dies of cyanide poisoning. Which of his foes preempted his final review, and how did they manage to poison him when he was surrounded by hundreds of people, including his companion for the evening, Chef-Inspecteur Alex Grismolet's former ward, Philippa Watten?
- Payment in Blood (1989): Second in the Scotland Yard Inspector Thomas Lynley series. The career of a relished playwright comes to an abrupt end on an isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands when someone shoves an eighteen-inch dirk through her neck.
- Shakespearean Murder Mystery historical crime fiction series. Sleuth is Nick Revill, a young actor.
- Sleep Of Death: A Shakespearean Murder Mystery (2000): When Nick and his troupe head to a Thameside mansion in Southwark, they learn that their melancholy host's father has just died and his mother has immediately remarried his uncle; of course, Nick is struck by the similarities between the young man's story and William Shakespeare's latest play, Hamlet. Nick suspects foul play and sets out to discover the circumstances of the old man's death.
- Death of Kings: A Shakespearean Murder Mystery (2001): Set 1601. At the request of one of Essex's supporters, Nick and his troupe are staging William Shakespeare's Richard II, and Nick finds himself not only acting in the play but also acting as a spy for the government.
- The Pale Companion (2002): Elizabethan players prepare to perform A Midsummer Night's Dream for a wedding celebration that features a reluctant bridegroom. When a half-mad 'homeless' man who lives in the neighboring woods dies under suspicious circumstances, Nick and the local magistrate investigate; then a second murder occurs.
- Alms for Oblivion (2003): Set 1602. Nick is the chief suspect in the murder of
his boyhood friend, Peter Agate, shortly after Peter comes to London and competes with
him for a part in a production of Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida.
- Mask of Night (2004): With Elizabeth I's death imminent in 1603, and the bubonic plague spreading, Nick and his troupe head to Oxford to perform Romeo and Juliet in an attempt to avert bloodshed between two contemporary feuding families; then Shakespeare's friend is found dead in a locked backstage room on opening night.
- An Honourable Murder (2005): Set in 1604, with James I now on the throne. Nick's troupe is helping to celebrate an impending peace treaty between England and Spain by performing a short play. Courtier Sir Philip Blake is among the cast, but his descent from the heavens at the drama's climax is more rapid than planned, resulting in his gory death.
- Murder in the Wings: A Jack Dwyer Mystery (1986): Jack Dwyer, ex-cop turned amateur actor, lands a role in 'Long Day's Journey Into Night,' where the play's director is in charge of everything except his own death.
- Groucho Marx is the sleuth in this series, with partner Frank Denby, a scriptwriter.
- Groucho Marx, Master Detective (1998): Set in 1937. Groucho persuades Denby (former police reporter, now scriptwriter for Groucho's radio show), to help him figure out who killed Peg McMorrow, a starlet with whom Groucho had had a brief relationship.
- Groucho Marx, Private Eye (1999): Set in 1938. When a leading plastic surgeon and drug supplier to the Hollywood elite is found shot to death and a faded star named Frances London is arrested for the crime, London's daughter, who sings on Groucho's radio show, asks Groucho and Denby to clear her mother's name.
- Elementary, My Dear Groucho (1999): On the set of a Sherlock Holmes movie, Groucho and Denby find German director Felix Denker dead in the detective's armchair.
- Groucho Marx and the Broadway Murders (2001): Groucho and Denby are in New York City, where Groucho is to perform in The Mikado at the World's Fair. On board the Super Chief train, Groucho scares an intruder out of producer Daniel Manheim's room; , who wants to harm Manheim, and why? Once in New York, events take a nasty turn as a real body appears in place of a dummy on a Broadway stage (from Booklist review).
- Groucho Marx, Secret Agent (2002): Set in 1939 Hollywood. Groucho and Denby investigate the death of British director Eric Olmstead.
- Groucho Marx, King of the Jungle (2005): Set 1940 Hollywood. Groucho and Denby investigate the murder of Randy Spellman, a libidinous actor who plays a Tarzan-like character.
- Death of a Hollow Man (1989): A Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby Mystery. A visit to a Causton Amateur Dramatic Society production is not Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby's idea of good entertainment, but loyalty to his wife prevails. And when the leading man takes his role too much to heart in a gruesome final act, Tom finds his professional skills are called upon. Dramatised by the BBC as 'Midsomer Murders.'
- Series starring Fran Varady, an out-of-work actress
turned private investigator in London, England
- Asking for Trouble (1996)
- Keeping Bad Company (1997)
- Running Scared (1999)
Gray, Dulcie (aka Dulcie Winifred Catherine Denison)
- Epitaph For a Dead Actor (1960)
- Understudy to Murder (1972)
- Actor (1993): A Stanley Hastings mystery (Hastings is a Manhattan P.I.). Hastings gets a call from an old friend, now a producer of summer stock theater in rural Connecticut. An actor has dropped dead of a heart attack, and a last-minute replacement is needed for the leading role in George Bernard Shaw's 'Arms and the Man.'
Hall, Robert Lee
- Murder at Drury Lane: Further Adventures of the American Agent in London (Benjamin Franklin Mystery) (1992): Set in 1758 England. Ben Franklin and his 12-year-old son/narrator Nick Handy, return to London, where they witness a heckler's untimely death at the staging of a new play at David Garrick's Drury Lane theater.
- Perish in July (1989): A local parish production of an operetta seems a welcome comic relief for antiques dealer and amateur sleuth Doran Fairweather and her ex-vicar husband. But the hot summer reaches its peak and Doran finds herself looking for a killer again. Fifth Doran Fairweather mystery. Set in Britain.
- Something Wicked (1988): In the Death on Demand series. Everyone, including mystery bookstore owner Annie Laurance Darling, loves 'Arsenic and Old Lace'. But something wicked is poisoning a local summer stock production as cast members stab each other in the back and props are sabotaged.
- Features the thespian-turned-sleuths William Shakespeare and Symington 'Tuck'
Smythe. Set in Elizabethan England.
- A Mystery of Errors (2000):
- The Slaying of the Shrew (2001):
- Much Ado About Murder (2002):
- Freeze My Margarita: A Sam Jones Novel (1998): Set London. A chance meeting in a fetish club with an old friend leads to a new job for Sam -- and now while making mobiles for an avant-garde production of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', she discovers a decomposing corpse in the basement under the theater. Series sleuth Sam Jones is a London sculptor.
- Bones & Silence (1990): A Dalziel and Pascoe Mystery. Set in Britain. Dalziel has been picked to play God in a local Mystery Play, but can he live up to his role by solving this puzzling psychological thriller ... or unveiling the passions and perversions that lie hidden in the human heart?
- Presence of Mind (1994): Features septuagenarian Emily Charters and Chicago police detective Jeremy Ransom. Three recent, seemingly random murders are connected when elderly Emily Charters identifies the victims as fellow members of the audience at a performance of 'Love's Labour Lost' at a small North Side storefront theater. Emily goes to the police with her observation, but only after more killings does Ransom finally believe that the audience must have witnessed something that incriminates the killer.
- Ransom at the Opera (2000): Emily Charters is present in the audience on opening night at Chicago's new Sheridan Center for the Performing Arts, watching two relatively unknown singers playing Don Jose and Carmen in a controversial and innovative production of 'Carmen', when, in the last act, Don Jose falls dead of an apparent pulmonary edema.
- Hamlet, Revenge! A Story in Four Parts (1937): A Sir John Appleby Mystery, set in Britain. Literary mystery with Shakespearian theme, involving murder during a private performance of 'Hamlet.'
- Murder on Theatre Row (1997): A Captain Bill Donovan Mystery. Donovan is confronted with murder-by-crossbow at a performance of 'Casablanca: The Musical.' Set in NYC's Times Square.
James, P. D.
- The Skull Beneath the Skin (1982): A Cordelia Gray mystery, set in Britain. Actress Clarissa Lisle, famous for her ravishing beauty and her unscrupulous manipulations, has been receiving increasingly malicious death notes and so hires Cordelia to serve as her bodyguard as she heads to an island castle off the coast of Dorset to star in a private performance of Webster's blood-curdling tragedy of 'The Duchess of Malfi'.
Jance, J. A.
- Failure To Appear (1993): Features Seattle homicide detective J.P. Beaumont, whose teenaged daughter Kelly has run off, leading the sober-but-struggling sleuth to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, where he comes upon a case of cold-blooded murder.
Kaminsky, Stuart M.
- Tomorrow is Another Day (1995): It's 1943, and part-time Hollywood detective Toby Peters teams up with Clark Gable, who has received a poem linking him to a series of deaths (some projected). Toby can't prevent the next killing, and further messages lead to more deaths, with all the victims having one thing in common: they had been extras in Gone with the Wind five years before during the burning of Atlanta scene when another extra was killed with a sword and his death covered up (from Publishers Weekly review).
- Bullets for Macbeth (1976): Featuring Hilary Quayle. In their third case, PR person Hilary Quayle and her assistant Gene solve a present day murder and also discover the identity of Banquo's third murderer, solving a mystery which has baffled scholars for 350 years.
Keating, H.R.F. [Henry Reymond Fitzwalter]
- Death of a Fat God (1966): A mystery set in an English opera house.
- The Quality of Mercy (1989): Tale of suspense in Elizabethan London, featuring dramatist Will Shakespeare; a departure from author's usual series.
- Murder Off Broadway (1962): Israeli police lieutenant Shomri Shomar, on loan from the Israeli government to New York City, unexpectantly watches a dress rehearsal for murder.
- The Memorial Hall Murder (1978): Homer Kelly has another mystery to solve when Harvard's Memorial Hall is bombed and a headless body is found amid the debris. Who is the corpse and was the bombing a murder plot?
- The Shortest Day: Murder at the Revels (1995): A Homer Kelly mystery. Murder stalks the annual Christmas Revels production held in Harvard's Memorial Hall (Cambridge, MA).
- The Isobel Spice Mysteries: Isobel is an aspiring actress/office temp, whose knack for solving murders develops
along with her attempts to break into show business.
- The Temporary Detective (2012): Aspiring actress Isobel Spice arrives in New York City fresh out of college, with few skills, but after being rejected by seven temp agencies, she sweet-talks newbie recruiter James Cooke into letting her cover a sudden vacancy at a bank. By lunchtime, Isobel stumbles across a dead secretary in a bathroom stall.
- Bad Publicity (2013): Isolbel is now temping at a public relations agency, where she unwittingly serves an important client a deadly dose of poisoned coffee. Turns out that the dead client was the fraternity brother of her recruiter pal James Cooke, who got Cooke expelled from college.
- And Justice for Some (2014): Isobel and best friend Delphi are performing in a cheesy interactive murder mystery at a judge's lifetime achievement dinner when Isobel's dramatic death scene is upstaged by a real murder.
- Offed Stage Left (2016): Isobel, now working in regional theater with a supporting role and as understudy for the lead in 'Sousacal: The Life and Times of John Philip Sousa,' becomes a suspect after a series of minor backstage accidents culminates in the suspicious death of the leading lady.
- Stage Fright (1993): Historical mystery, set in Britain. Suffragette sleuth Nell Bray in a 1909 London mystery concerning playwright George Bernard Shaw.
- Murder-by-the-Sea (1987): Opening night for the Carmen Playhouse production of 'A Classic Case of Murder' was a killer. So was the cast party. Especially when the body of Sisu Porter washed ashore.
Lockridge, Frances & Richard
- Death on the Aisle (1942): A Broadway backer is skewered during dress rehearsal and the Norths are right on cue.
- Death Takes a Bow (1943): Pam and Jerry North investigate the death of an international author who falls off the stage at the start of a lecture. Was it accidental, suicide or murder?
- Death Of an Angel (1955): The richest investor in a Broadway smash hit dies after having a romance with the leading lady. Pam and Jerry North investigate.
Long, Amelia Reynolds
- The Lady Saw Red (1951): Features the character Katherine 'Peter' Piper. Mystery writer Peter Piper was jinxed. Whenever she started to write a story based on real people, sudden death invariably struck one of the principal characters. So she should have known better than to promise to do a play -- a murder melodrama at that -- for the local theater group.
- Abracadaver (1972): A Sergeant Cribb mystery, set in the world of the music halls of 19th-century London.
- The Plain Old Man (1985): While a comic opera plays on stage, a serious killer waits in the wings. Features Boston couple Sarah Kelling and Max Bittersohn, specialists in art and antiques investigation.
- Cue For Murder (1942): A Basil Willing murder mystery. A story of murder onstage during a Broadway revival of Sardou's 'F?dora'.
- Death, Snow and Mistletoe: A Tori Miracle Mystery (2000): Tori, as editor of the Lickin Creek, PA newspaper, is busy covering the community theater's annual Christmas pageant (a Wiccan-cum-Shakespearean adaptation of 'The Nutcracker') when two of the pageant's middle-aged sugar plum fairies are murdered.
Several of the books in her Chief Superintendent Roderick Alleyn of Scotland Yard series involve the theatre.
- Vintage Murder (1937): Alleyn plays leading man to a Maori idol, and an on-stage killer.
- Overture To Death (1939): When someone shoots the aging town gadfly as she sits down to play the overture for an amateur theatrical production, Inspector Alleyn must sort through the clues to determine who in town could have committed the crime. Sergei Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C-sharp minor plays a prominent part in the story, as does Venetian Suite" by Ethelbert Nevin.
- Enter a Murderer (1941): A murder takes place on stage at the Unicorn Theatre during a performance but only two people -- the murderer and Inspector Alleyn -- know it's more than just a piece of inspired acting.
- Night at the Vulcan (1951): aka Opening Night. After the death of a leading man on opening night, Inspector Alleyn must read between the lines to expose a desparate interplay of backstage relationships and upstage a master murderer.
- Killer Dolphin (1966): The old Victorian Dolphin Theatre has a hit play, inspired by the discovery of a remarkable Shakespearean glove. But late one evening, greed overcomes one of the performers, compelling him to steal the valuable glove and to commit a hideous murder in the attempt.
- Light Thickens (1982): Peregrine Jay, owner of the Dolphin Theatre, is putting on a magnificent production of Macbeth, the play that, superstition says, always brings bad luck. One night, the claymore swings and the dummy's head is more than real: murder has taken place behind the scenes. Fortunately, Chief Superintendent Roderick Alleyn is in the audience.
Marston, Edward (aka Keith Miles)
The Elizabethan Theater Mystery series features stage manager Nicholas Bracewell.
- The Queen's Head (1988): First in the series.
- Merry Devils (1989)
- The Trip to Jerusalem (1990)
- The Nine Giants (1991)
- The Silent Woman (1994)
- The Mad Courtesan (1994)
- Roaring Boy (1995)
- The Laughing Hangman (1996)
- The Fair Maid of Bohemia (1997)
- The Wanton Angel (1999)
- The Devil's Apprentice (2001)
- The Bawdy Basket (2002)
- The Vagabond Clown (2003)
- Her Charlotte Graham series features a former movie star from New Jersey.
- Murder at the Spa (1990)
- Murder at Teatime (1991)
- Murder on the Cliff (1991)
- Murder on the Silk Road (1992): Asked to track a Buddhist sculpture that has vanished from a wealthy estate, Charlotte Graham sets aside her guidebooks and searches for clues in China's mystical caves.
- Murder at the Falls (1993)
- Murder on High (1994): Actress-turned-sleuth Charlotte Graham jumped at the chance to investigate the mysterious murder of Iris Richards. What deadly secrets did Iris take with her on her long fall down Knife Edge Mountain?
- Murder Among the Angels (1996)
- Murder under the Palms (1997): A former movie star turns sleuth is enjoying a glamorous charity ball and her reunion with a famed band leader until a renowned jewelry designer is stabbed to death at the party.
- The Canary Trainer: From the Memoirs of John H. Watson (1993): Sherlock Holmes matches wits with his most compelling antagonist, The Phantom of the Opera.
- Murder: The Musical (1993): Leslie Wetzon and her partner Xenia Smith investigate a murder in a mezzanine when the stage manager is bludgeoned to death, at the trendiest show in NYC.
- Both these titles feature Beatrice Lestrange Bradley, psychiatrist and
consultant to the Home Office in London, England.
- Death at the Opera (1934; also published as Death in the Wet)
- Lovers, Make Moan (1981): Set in Britain.
- Her Tessa Crichton series features an actress sleuth in England.
- Death in the Grand Manor (1970)
- Murder in Married Life (1971)
- Death of a Gay Dog (1973)
- Murder on French Leave (1973)
- Death and the Dutiful Daughter (1974)
- Death of a Heavenly Twin (1974)
- Killing with Kindness (1975)
- Nursery Tea and Poison (1975)
- Death of a Wedding Guest (1976)
- Murder in Mimicry (1977)
- Scared to Death (1977)
- Murder by Proxy (1978)
- Murder in Outline (1979)
- Death in the Round (1980)
- The Men in Her Death (1981)
- Sleep of Death (1982)
- Hollow Vengeance (1982)
- Murder Post-Dated (1983)
- Getting Away with Murder? (1984)
- Dead on Cue (1985)
- Publish and Be Killed (1986)
- Treble Exposure (1987)
- Fatal Charm (1988)
- Mute Witness (1933): Historical mystery set in France just prior to the French Revolution. The Palais-Royal was the scene of much gaiety and a constant round of pleasures -- perfect cover for darker activities such as the murder of a Parisian actress. That same evening, her lover, Antoine Dubois, died in a fatal fall. Word of Antoine's death is carried to his stepdaughter, Anne Cartier, a young vaudeville actress with the Sadler's Wells company in London. The headstrong Anne enlists the aid of the messenger, Colonel Paul de Saint-Martin, and his adjutant, Georges Charpentier, to cross to France and investigate.
- Falling Star (1979): Mici Anhalt wonders who would kill her friend, Julia Schuyler, a down-and-out former actress. Julia must have had something worth killing her for, and Mici figures whoever has it now must be her killer.
- Walking Shadow (1994): When the star of a poorly rated and controversial stage production is shot mid-scene, Spenser and his sidekick, Hawk, comb the shabby waterfront town and find a cast of likely suspects among the underworld.
- The Fourth Wall (1979): Her first crime novel. The theatre world of New York is rocked when a number of prominient professionals become the victims of viciously personal attacks. A stage manager loses his hand, an actress is disfigured when her face cream is laced with acid. Gradually the link emerges; many years in the past all of them were members of a one theatre group; but why are they being targetted now? Who wants revenge so badly, and why?
Paul's Operatic Mystery series features Italian tenor Enrico Caruso in
- A Cadenza for Caruso: An Operatic Mystery (1984): Excitement is running high at the Metropolitan Opera as the long-heralded world premiere of Puccini's LA FANCIULLA DEL WEST approaches. But murder and blackmail stalk the Met. Set in turn-of-the-20th-century NYC, features Enrico Caruso, Italian tenor.
- Prima Donna at Large (1985): Phillippe Duchon is an annoying, egotistical personality and everyone at the Met has had enough. When someone replaces his throat spray with ammonia, Duchon's vocal chords and his life are finished. Enrico Caruso and Arturo Toscanino share the action with fictional characters as they investigate murder at the Metropolitan Opera.
- A Chorus of Detectives (1987): Christmas season at the Metropolitan Opera in 1920 features Enrico Caruso and Geraldine Farrar in a varied schedule of mostly Italian operas, but 'accidents' plague the Metropolitan chorus members: an urn falls on the head of a soprano chorister in 'Samson and Delilah'; a tenor from the chorus is found hanged in a dressing room before a performance of 'Mefistofele'; in 'I Pagliacci', a trapdoor drops open and three singers fall through.
- The Apostrophe Thief (1993): Features Marian Larch, NYPD officer, who is about to quit the force when she begins investigating the disappearance of seemingly random items, including a jacket that once belonged to Sarah Bernhardt, from a Broadway theater currently hosting a play called 'The Apostrophe Thief.'
- Knight Fall (1987): Movie star turned private eye investigates the murder of a friend and fellow actor at a performance of 'King Lear'.
- Last Act (1988): Young adult. Melanie is the new girl at school, but when she gets the starring role in the school play, she has a whole gang of friends. What she doesn't know is they share a terrible secret from the past, a secret that comes to light after the opening night of the play when the police come for a body and for Melanie.
- The Roman Hat Mystery: A Problem in Deduction (1929): A scream during the screening of 'Gunplay', the underworld hit of the season, stops the tragedy short but reveals a shocking, baffling crime.
Quentin, Patrick (pseud.)
- A Puzzle For Players (1938): Peter Duluth is involved with murder in a Broadway play being staged in the apparently jinxed Dragonet Theatre. Second in the Duluth mystery series. [Quentin is actually the pen name of two authors writing together, R. Wilson Webb and Hugh C. Wheeler; Wheeler teamed up with Stephen Sondheim in 1972 and wrote the books for 'A Little Night Music' and 'Sweeney Todd' among others. He won a Tony Award for each of those musicals in 1973 and 1979 respectively.]
- Mortal Causes (1995): A particularly gruesome murder occurs during the Edinburgh Festival, one that looks like it might have its roots in terrorism; Inspector Rebus's investigation takes him from his home base to the villages of rural Scotland and across to Belfast and back again.
- Death Notes (1981): Features Chief Inspector Wexford. When the world's greatest flute player drowns just days before his wedding to a woman 50 years his junior, Inspector Wexford is the only one to correctly label his death murder.
- The Gold Gamble (1988): 5th in the Gold series. Norma Gold and her friend Pearl are coproducing a Broadway revival of 'Guys and Dolls.'
- A Trick of the Light (1994): Romantic mystery set in Charleston, South Carolina, involving a local theatre group.
- Past Reason Hated (1991): An Inspector Banks mystery. Yorkshire setting. When beautiful Caroline Hartley is found dead, with an endlessly repeating Vivaldi recording on the turntable nearby, Chief Inspector Alan Banks is faced with an apparent crime of passion. Other crimes include the slashing to ribbons of a 'Twelfth Night' cast's costumes. An amateur theatre group is part of the plot. Title is taken from Shakespeare's sonnet 129, which describes the agony and consequences of lust.
- The Fourth Wall (2001): An Alex Bernier Mystery. Reporter Alex Bernier must play detective, sorting illusion from deadly truth -- and, with luck, outwitting a murderer determined to bring the curtain down on her act.
- Midnight Walking (1986): [Need information]
- The Knowledge of Water (1996): Set in Paris in 1910, the year a devastating flood struck. Alexander von Reisden and Perdita Halley meet after 3 years apart in Paris where Perdita is studying concert piano at the Conservatoire and Reisden heads an institute that specializes in diagnosis of the insane. They plunge into an intense, erotic affair, though Perdita cannot marry and attend the Conservatoire, and Alexander is haunted by a secret from the past. A deliciously elegant game of art and life turns deadly serious as a madman stalks first Alexander and then Perdita, threatening to destroy them both in retribution for a murder they know nothing about -- or do they?
Stacey, Susannah (pseud. for Jill Staynes and Margaret Storey)
- A Knife at the Opera: A Superintendent Bone mystery. Backstage at the Tunbridge Wells girls' school production of 'The Beggar's Opera,' Miss Claire Fairlie, the English teacher, was found with a knife plunged into her back. The Superintendent was in the audience, and as he dug deeper into the case, he discovered there was a lot more to Miss Fairlie than met the eye.
Stark, Richard (pseud. Donald E. Westlake)
- His Alan Grofield series features a NYC actor (card-carrying member of Actors Equity)
and part-time bank robber as sleuth.
- The Damsel (1967): Grofield rescues a damsel in distress in a life-or-death race across Mexico.
- The Dame (1969): Grofield is hired by a mobster's wife as an extra bodyguard when an attempt is made on her life in her Puerto Rican jungle villa.
- The Blackbird (1969): When irresistable Alan meets Blackbird, a dangerous black beauty from the new African nation of Undurwa, bodies pile up, national leaders rise and fall, and Grofield racks up his most violent caper to date.
- Lemons Never Lie (1971)
- This Rough Magic (1964): Echoes of Shakespeare's 'Tempest' resonate through this romantic adventure on the island of Corfu, in the Ionian Sea. A fledgling actress vacationing in Corfu witnesses the murder of one of England's theater luminaries and becomes embroiled in a dangerous offstage drama.
Storey, Alice (pseud. Sarah Shankman)
- Then Hang All the Liars (1989): Investigative reporter Samantha Adams follows the trail of a poisoned puppy, a savaged doll and a fifty-year old scandal which has led to murder. Set in Atlanta, GA. [Need info on theatre aspect. Other books in her Sam Adams series are also quotes from Shakespeare plays: First Kill All the Lawyers; and Now Let's Talk of Graves.]
- Death Scene: A Novel of Murder on Broadway (1981): A retired actress plans to stage a secret play, but murder interferes.
Taylor, Phoebe Atwood
- Mystery of the Cape Cod Players (1933): An Asey Mayo mystery; Mayo is a former sailor and auto racer in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. A magician is a member of a traveling theatrical group [need more info].
- The Man in the Queue (1929): An Inspector Alan Grant mystery. A man in the queue for a popular London musical comedy falls over on his face, the handle of a dagger protruding from his coat. The clues lead Inspector Alan Grant on a nightmare chase that leads to the wilds of Scotland.
- A Shilling for Candles (1954): An Inspector Alan Grant mystery. When a young actress's body washes up on a beach along the southern coast of England, Inspector Alan Grant thinks it is murder. But, there are too many clues, and too many people who wanted her dead.
- Morality Play (1995): Set in England late in the 14th century, a time marked by war, plague and fear of hell-fire. Nicholas Barber, a young cleric, has left his diocese without the Bishop's permission. It is the Christmas season, and the cleric, finding himself without money, joins a troupe of traveling actors, a decision expressly forbidden to members of the clergy. But real trouble happens when the troupe decides to enact the murder of a 12-year-old boy called Thomas Wells to the hostile townspeople.
- Enter Dying (2002): In the Ghostwriter series. Miss Jake O'Hara is ghostwriting a Broadway musical when during rehearsals, the leading lady is brutally murdered and Jake and her ghostwriting friends help investigate.
Warren, James (aka Robert Brendon)
- She Fell Among Actors (1944): The curtain fell on the last act of the life of Richard Winter, actor extraordinary, when his obese, alcoholic body was found sunk in fourteen inches of soapy bathtub water. But the drama of his death took up from here, for James Warren of Scotland Yard was convinced that this once greatest of all Macbeths had been murdered. [Yes, the detective's name and the author's pseudonym are the same.]
White, Ellen Emerson
- All Emergencies, Ring Super (1997): Introduces struggling actress Dana Coakley, who is making money by tutoring disadvantaged inner-city kids; when one tells her that a fire at a home for low income families was caused by arson and not by faulty Christmas lights, she investigates.
- Except for the Bones (1991): An Allan Bernhardt mystery. Bernhardt is an actor-director private investigator in San Francisco, California.
- The Hamlet Trap (1987): A Charlie Meiklejohn/Constance Hall mystery, set at a theater company in Ashland, Oregon.
- Dearest Enemy (1981): An Anthony Maitland mystery about the murder of one of the legends of the London stage.
- Eviction by Death (1993): A Victoria Bowering mystery. Underemployed actress/private investigator Bowering is elated at getting a role as the lead in an international stage tour of 'Auntie Mame', but after she fights with her disreputable landlord over an illegal sublet that would provide her the money to take the role, her landlord dies, and Vic could be a prime suspect.
- Mom Doth Murder Sleep (1991): Dave, a middle-aged, ex-New York City detective, now chief investigator for Public Defender Anne Swenson in Mesa Grande, Colorado, calls on his seventy-five-year-old mother to help him find out if 'murder will out' when one of the actors in the cast of a production of Shakespeare's 'Macbeth' is found dead.
Yorke, Margaret (pseud. Margaret Beda Larminie Nicholson)
- Cast for Death (1975): A Dr. Patrick Grant mystery; Grant is a professor at Oxford, England. Grant finds a chain of circumstances linking two suicides, the accidental death of a dog and a series of art robberies. [theatre-related?]
- A Happy English Child (1988): When a flamboyantly handsome Shakespearean actor is murdered during a performance in the village of Yorkshire, the suspects range from a drunken former star to a prop girl known to be infatuated with the victim.