Sunday, March 5, 2023

Encore in Death (In Death #56), by J.D. Robb (author), Susan Ericksen (narrator)

Macmillan Audio, ISBN 9781250878267, February 2023

Lt. Eve Dallas is summoned to the site of a high-end, A-list party hosted by stars of Broaday and Hollywood, because one of them has dropped dead, quite suddenly, with the scent of almonds around him.

Eliza Lane is an actor who has  winning awards, primarily on Broadway but also in Hollywood, for twenty-five years. Her husband, Brant Fitzhugh, is a knock 'em dead screen star, but has also performed successfully on stage. Fitzhugh is one of those actors who is personally liked by everyone, because he's so kind, so generous, so humane, so likeable.

It's quickly confirmed that the almond smell is cyanide, and it was in the champagne cocktail he had just toasted his wife with as she performed a duet with the co-stair of play she's opening in, in just a few days. Yet he has no enemies. None at all. Not even his ex has anything negative to say about him. Even that canonical prime suspect, his wife, Eliza Lane, is obvously in love with him, and they are both individually and together quite wealthy and secure. Neither has been unfaithful. No major arguments. There's no aparent motive.

Lane doesn't seem to have any real enemies, either, but there are at least some complaints about her. Too tough, too demanding, has fired several assistants along the way. And the drink that killed Fitzhugh was originally intended for her--but Fitzhugh stood at the bar and told the bartender exactly how to make it, and if he'd added poison, why would he then drink it?

Eve, Peabody, and all their colleagues, start digging into the case. They look into everyone around Lane and Fitzhugh, Medical examiner Morris does a very thorough and careful autopsy. Forensic technician Dickie Berenski, often called "Dickhead" for a reason, makes only a token protest about how quickly Dallas wants her results, before admitting he's a fan, too, and pulling out all stops. 

And as they dig into the past--Lane's past, not Fitzhugh's--they find some interesting details.

The play she's due to open in, Upstage, is about a mother and daughter and theater. Twenty-five years ago, Eliza Lane was the understudy for the role of the daughter, when the actor in that role died of a drug overdose, which was rule to be an accident. Lane took over th role and won her first Tony. The mother of the original actor, Debra Bernstein, blamed Lane for her daughter's death. She's held a grudge ever since, and has tried many times to gin up bad publicity for Lane. That's the first real clue, rather than just uneasy doubt, that Fitzhugh maybe wasn't the target.

But of course it's not that easy. It is in fact very complicated and confusing, and there's another death coming.

Another excellent visit with Dallas and friends. Work on the house that Mavis & Leonardo, and Peabody & McNab, are renovating together, continues apace, and we get some lovely details. Roarke gives Dallas a third anniversary gift that only someone who knows her as well as he does could even think of. We get another unexpected detail about Summerset's background.

It's a lot of fun, and Susan Ericksen does her usuall excellent job of narration.

I bought this audiobook.

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