Rehearsed to Death (A Domestic Partners in Crime Mystery)
“Polito does a good job of laying out the information for the reader to follow, but the reader won’t be the first at the finish line.”
PJ (Peter James) Penwell, and JP Broadway are a successful couple in all things good. PJ is an author and playwright; JP is an actor. Both men star in a TV program, Domestic Partners—a home design TV series, and they are partners in life.
Our narrator, PJ, takes us down the road, figuratively speaking, as Frank Anthony Polito’s new gay cozy, Rehearsed to Death, unfolds. PJ has just finished writing a play, “Blue Tuesday,” which will be produced at the local theater, with JP in the lead role.
Both men are well known, and the play is expected to move to New York from Pleasant Woods, MI. But first things first, the play must be cast and rehearsed.
Vicky Marshall, who has previously directed plays at the theater, learns that Xander Deva, a well-known NY director has been asked by the theater board to take on the directing responsibility, much to her chagrin. Neither PJ nor JP are advised of this decision, rehearsals do not get off to a good start.
Polito has designed his characters carefully with special attention to Xander, whose arrogance, rudeness, and self-importance enter the room long before he makes his appearance. There is no one that Xander can’t find fault with, and he makes his feelings known.
Vicky, now relegated to the role of assistant director, finds herself pushed away; her thoughts and suggestions tossed aside like trash. PJ, playwright, is not immune to Xander’s insults about the play and PJ’s writing skills.
PJ and JP’s neighbor, Bob Kravitz, appears to audition for the play, and Xander immediately comments on Bob’s gayness. Bob insists he is not gay, but Xander does not let up. Cast in the play, Bob experiences ongoing comments about his gayness, regardless of how many times he refutes the claim.
To PJ’s surprise, other roles have been cast without any audition. Enter Rusty Doyle, “a tall, handsome, ginger-haired stranger” with a strong acting background. Within moments of Rusty’s appearance, Xander makes it clear that Rusty will not be auditioning and there is no role for him in the play. Case closed—no explanations.
To say that Xander is not making friends would be an understatement. As the play goes into production, the insults fly fast and furious in all directions.
Polito has a unique writing style not often seen in cozies. He dedicates each chapter to explaining confrontations between a particular character and Xander, thus setting each character up as a good suspect—since it is clear from early on that Xander is not long for this world.
And sure enough, after the groundwork is set for each character, Xander is found dead late at night in the theater. His death appears, initially, as an accident, but as more clues are found, the concept of an accident begins to dissipate.
It is now that JP and PJ take it upon themselves to follow clues and hunt for the killer. At the same time, Rusty Doyle reenters the story, and he is drawn to JP. Soon an anonymous call goes to the police hinting that PJ might be the killer. Could this get PJ out of the way for Rusty to step into JP’s life? Only time will tell.
If the reader follows the clues that are laid out, s/he will quickly determine who the real killer is, but be advised—don’t rely on all of the clues, and when you get to the end, Xander’s death will be satisfactorily explained and it won’t be what you think.
Rehearsed to Death is a fun cozy to read. Polito does a good job of laying out the information for the reader to follow, but the reader won’t be the first at the finish line.
If there is any drawback to this story, it is that, midstory, Polito tosses in several pages of PJ and JP adopting a rescue dog to become a buddy to their current, spoiled, pup. It can be said that this situation is fun and sheds some more light on PJ and JP’s relationship, but it has nothing to do with who murdered Xander. That being said, it is only mildly distracting.
Cozy fans will find this delightful story engaging.