Review: Untimely Death by Elizabeth J. Duncan

Untimely Death by Elizabeth J. Duncan
Series: Shakespeare in the Catskills (# 1)
Release Date:  November 10, 2015
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Pages: 278
Source: book provided by the publisher for review



A Catskills resort’s production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet takes a wickedly ironic turn when the leading lady, Lauren Richmond, is first poisoned and then stabbed. Who would extinguish the life of such a beautiful young thespian? Who wouldn’t? Seems like just about everyone had a motive to pull the ropes on her final curtain call. At the center of this Shakespearian tragedy is Charlotte Fairfax, formerly the costume mistress of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Upstate New York is a long way from the royal stage, but Charlotte is always the queen of her domain. As this small production’s costume designer, she has stitched her way into everyone’s lives, learning more than anyone could possibly imagine about the rise and fall of Lauren Richmond. But curiosity killed the cat. And it might well kill the costume designer. Witty and wise work, Untimely Death, the first in Elizabeth J. Duncan’s charming cozy series, is sure to delight.


Review: Untimely Death taps into the world of theatre performers and the behind the scenes drama that goes into putting on a small production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, including the costuming, which is Charlotte Fairfax’s responsibility.

This play, an annual tradition for the resort, puts Charlotte in the uncomfortable position of working with her former boyfriend, Brian, and witnessing his decline as an actor, but still harboring some real pain over the break up.

However, she doesn’t have too much time dwell on Brian when one of the actresses in the play meets an untimely death, due to foul play. It’s up to Charlotte and her boyfriend, Ray, to discover who wanted her dead and why.

Cozy mysteries have been around forever, with seasoned authors boasting long running installments in wildly popular series. Still the genre is rarely taken seriously, until now, as they are one of the hottest things going.  New series, like this one,  are cropping up all the time as more people are turning to these stories for light, fun, easy reading.

This first installment in the series, set in the Catskills of New York, is one I wanted to take a closer look at due to the Shakespearean themes.

This book was a fun read, and gets the series off to a solid enough beginning.

Often times, these light mysteries are very character driven, and the focus is more on the personal dramas and relationships of the characters and less on the mystery aspect of the story.   In this case, the author balanced the two equally, which is something I would like to see happen more in this genre.

However, the mystery is just a little flimsy, perhaps a tad predictable, but still managed to throw in an unusual twist.

With everyone trying to board the cozy mystery train these days, it will take something special to draw readers attention,  and keep it, so I hope this series can find its way from here and will gain some momentum, but it will need to incorporate a stronger mystery, or add a dash of  humor or just more panache to the story in some way, I think, in order for it survive in the long run.  The cast of characters will be key to that end, and I think they have plenty of room to develop.

So, overall, I think this series has potential and is promising, and I will definitely pick up the second book in the series to see how things progress from here.