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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Play with Fire by Cindy Davis

Play with Fire by Cindy Davis
Publisher: L & L Dreamspell
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Heat Level: sweet
Length: Full Length (296 pgs)
Rating: 5 books
Reviewed by Snapdragon

Who wants John Bloom, the owner of the local nursery, dead?

Angie Deacon has a new career, co-owner of Alton Bay, New Hampshire’s community theater. After her divorce life is good once again. Until opening night when the co-star—played by love interest Detective Colby Jarvis—shoots the star. Who substituted Jarvis’ real gun for the prop gun? And why would anyone want the star dead? In his day job he owns the local nursery.

The central concept of Play with Fire by Cindy Davis involves a murder… and events oddly start out center-stage, during the new play at the local community theater. It is one of those theaters where the locals jump in to performances: and who’d have guessed the local police Detective Jarvis would have such a gift for acting? But as it turns out, some events are all too real.

Theater owner/star and our heroine, Angie Deacon, sets out to present a fabulous show… and ends up entangled in sorting out a murder. Jarvis is involved immediately – and on so many levels! Angie’s suspicions swing from one potential killer to the next, but she’s both clever and insightful, and we never doubt she’ll be successful. This is more intrigue than suspense – there’s danger out there, but we’re confident that she’ll handle it.

I liked the casual quips/jazzy dialogue “Who’d a thunk it” and the like. Ms. Davis’ characters really come to life through their own voices. Even minor characters make some grand entrances: “He wore a long coat and a fedora like the one Bogie wore in Casablanca. His face was obscured beneath the tipped-down brim of the hat. An actor. Had to be. Come to audition for something.”

Everything about this work plays up the drama. Every incident drives toward some unpredictable event; even the search for the unknown pet, that seemed so minor and simple at the start, becomes suspenseful. Every incident sends us scurrying along some renewed and unpredictable path. Friendships, betrayals and emotional challenges confront the whole cast of characters – some of whom are indeed actors, even while they are all actually something else. To uncover the motive in this case, Angie has the upper hand in knowing most of the people quite well; but it's sorting out some events of the past that will show her that not everyone is the person they seem to be.

The romantic part of this is a little atypical, but definitely an important, and a subtly developed part of the overall.

Play with Fire is one of those stories that is so beautifully written you forget you are reading it; you must know what happens. It's engaging and intriguing, the characters seem real, and the backdrop, Alton Bay New Hampshire, is simply perfect. I’d like to sit at the real Shipley’s and read this again, and listen for the MV Mt. Washington’s horns sound in the distance.

Kudos to Cindy Davis - can’t wait for the next one.