BWW Review: KILLALOT: AN IVY MEADOWS MYSTERY
"In short there's simply not, a more congenial spot
For happily-ever-aftering than here in Kennelot."
"Kennelot" is the mirthical portmanteau concocted by theatrical mystery writer Cindy Brown for her latest Ivy Meadows novel, KILLALOT, the very model of a modern medieval mystery. In her her sixth outing, Ivy continues to try to balance sleuthing and stardom.
Who is Ivy Meadows? Imagine if "Murder She Wrote's" Jessica Fletcher were a few decades younger and traded her Maine cottage for an air-conditioned Arizona apartment. Ivy Meadows is actually only her marquee moniker. Her real name is Olive Ziegwart, part-time PI with her uncle's detective agency, which this time takes her undercover as a belly dancer at the Phoenix Renaissance Festival.
By night, Ivy pursues her theatrical dreams, which this time has her cast as Marilyn Monroe in a workshop production of a new musical mash-up of Camelot and the Kennedy Administration. The faux show features such classic showtunes as "Where Are The Simple Joys of Hyannis Port?", "I Love You, the Hell With Silence", and "The Lusty Years of Men." (Fearing Sondheim's disapproval "The First Ladies Who Lunch" doesn't get past the drawing board.) How these two worlds converge is part of the fun. And Brown's books are nothing if not fun. As always, they make light reading with short, digestible chapters and an outlook as sunny as the Scottsdale weather.
In this volume, Brown introduces a new quandary for our heroine, one that is faced by many up-and-coming performers. Ivy wrestles long and hard with how to balance the vagabond existence of a thespian with her desire to settle down and foster a relationship with her boyfriend Matt. She also feels obliged to keep an eye on her brother Cody, who has an intellectual disability and lives in a group home. And who will help out Uncle Bob at Duda Detective Agency? If "Kennelot" goes to Broadway (which she knows is a massive "if"), will Ivy leave her loved ones in the desert dust (literally)?
A Ren Faire is a world unto itself and Brown draws readers a vivid map of the fairgrounds. It's a place populated with actors, vendors, craftspeople, and all manner of medieval livestock (the equine and aviary variety, predominately). When a jouster bites the dust (again, literally), Ivy gyrates her bejeweled behind in order to suss out the suspects while blending in with the crowd - except when she's attempting her version of a cockney accent, when it's a good thing she's a belly-dancing mime. Brown's book builds steadily toward the 'whodunnit' by having Ivy / Olive confront her most dreaded nemesis. To say more would be a spoiler, but rest assured it is not one of Brown's vividly drawn characters.
Many readers are intimidated by books with running characters, not knowing if they need to start with the first book, or if they don't, wondering if they'll miss something and be confused. The good news is that Cindy Brown has mastered the serial novel format, parsing out self-contained references to Ivy's previous adventures while still developing the character as well as a cracker of a Christie-style mystery. The bad news is that, unlike a Netflix binge, we have to wait for Brown to pen Ivy's next adventure!
"Egads," said my uncle, "I love the Renaissance faire." Me too, uncle Bob. Me too!
KILLALOT: AN IVY MEADOWS MYSTERY by Cindy Brown is published by Henery Press (henerypress.com) and is also available at Amazon.com in paperback and digital format.