Costume designer Charlotte Fairfax has another murder on her hands as she prepares for the latest performance of the Catskills Shakespeare Theater Company, Much Ado About Nothing. The company’s steady growth enables them to cast star British actress Audrey Ashley, who arrives on scene to play the lead role of Beatrice. But things immediately get more complicated when Audrey insists the company replace the current director with new, up and coming British director Edmund Albright.
Edmund plans to change the popular romantic comedy, which alienates several people associated with the production. And the list of people he upsets only grows: the laid off former director, the hotel owner’s secretary, and even Audrey herself. Just as Edmund’s plans are about to come to fruition, his body is discovered on his sofa, holding a gun in his hand. His death is quickly ruled a suicide but Charlotte thinks otherwise. Why would Edmund, on the brink of greatness, kill himself? And in such an American way?
With a whole cast of characters to investigate, Charlotte is determined to unmask each one before it’s final curtain call on the whole production in award-winning author Elizabeth J. Duncan’s third Shakespeare in the Catskills mystery, Much Ado About Murder.
Charlotte Fairfax, costume designer and amateur sleuth, welcome to Island Confidential! Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
I began my career with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-Upon-Avon and found myself in New York about ten years ago when the RSC performed on Broadway. I was engaged to marry the leading actor, but when he broke the engagement, I just couldn’t face going home to the UK with the rest of the Company. So I stayed in the States and eventually made a new life for myself with the Catskills Shakespeare Theater Company in upstate New York. While I love living here, I miss quite a few things about Britain, including the quiet beauty of villages, fields of grazing sheep enclosed in stone walls, and shopping at Marks.
I was just starting to think about returning to the UK when I met Ray, the local chief of police here in Walkers Ridge. And then everything changed, for the better. I’m at a good place in my life right now. So if people think I’m stuck in a provincial backwater, yearning for the bright lights of the big city, I’m perfectly content. Besides, the bright lights of Manhattan are just a train ride away.
Who’s your favorite character in Much Ado about Murder?
That’s an easy one. You probably thought my answer would be Ray, but no, it’s the other man in my life. Rupert. He’s my tri-color corgi, and I love him to bits. I’ve had him since he was a pup and anyone who’s ever loved a dog will know why he’s so special to me. If you’ve ever loved a dog, you’ll know what I’m talking about. He’s been such a comfort, and he’s given my life purpose.
Is there anyone you don’ get along with so well?
There is usually tension between the costume designer and the director. He (and it’s usually a he although thankfully that’s changing) wants things that are difficult to deliver on a tight budget. In our most recent play, Much Ado About Nothing, things got really out of hand and just about everybody was in conflict with the director and he ended up dead! But fortunately that doesn’t happen too often or we’d never get a production up on its legs!
Just between you and me: What do you really think of your author?
As far as the books go, I like Elizabeth J. Duncan. But I’m not sure I trust her personally. I think she wants to steal my dog.
Charlotte, what’s next for you?
As you’re reading this, I’m back in the UK, with Ray. He’s meeting my mum, and we’re planning to get engaged while we’re here. When we return to the Catskills, we’ll start work on our next project, a production of The Merchant of Menace. Did I really say that? Of course I meant The Merchant of Venice.
About The Author
Elizabeth J Duncan is the author of two mystery series – Shakespeare in the Catskills and the Penny Brannigan mystery series set in North Wales. She is a two-time winner of the Bloody Words Award for Canada’s best light mystery and lives in Toronto.