Sunday, May 2, 2021

Review: A Fatal First Night by Kathleen Marple Kalb

A Fatal First Night by Kathleen Marple Kalb
Series: Ella Shane Mystery, Book 2
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: Historical Mystery 
A Fatal First Night
ISBN: 9781496727244
Release Date: April 27, 2021
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo
It’s easy to be overlooked in Gilded Age Manhattan, but the Ella Shane Opera Company’s latest premier manages to attract adoring crowds, rave reviews, and a killer who’s a real showstopper!

New York City, Fall 1899.
Ahead-of-her-time coloratura mezzo Ella Shane has always known opening night to be a mess of missed cues and jittery nerves, especially when unveiling a new opera. Her production of The Princes in the Tower, based on the mysterious disappearance of Edward IV’s two sons during the Wars of the Roses in England, concludes its first performance to thunderous applause. It’s not until players take their bows that the worst kind of disaster strikes…

Flawless basso Albert Reuter is found lurched over a bloody body in his dressing room, seemingly taking inspiration from his role as the murderous Richard III. With a disturbing homicide case stealing the spotlight, Ella can’t be so certain Albert is the one who belongs behind bars…

Now, Ella must think on her feet while sorting out a wild series of puzzling mishaps and interlocking mysteries. Yet even when sided with her aristocratic beau, does this scrappy diva have the chops to upstage the true criminal, or will this be the last time she headlines a Broadway marquee?

Opera singer Ella Shane is back in A Fatal First Night. Murder once again finds its way into the diva’s show, this time on opening night when her lead basso is found with a dead body in his dressing room.

I had mixed feelings about A Fatal First Night. It’s a story I want to love because the settings and characters are ripe with potential. However, Kathleen Marple Kalb never quite hits the mark for me. This is supposed to be a cozy mystery but – as with the first Ella Shane Mystery, A Fatal Finale – almost no time is devoted to the mystery itself. Instead, we’re treated to a sometimes roaming journey of Ella and co.’s daily lives, not to mention Ella’s very slow-burn romance with her handsome duke. If I hadn’t been expecting a mystery, this would be less of a problem, but I was left wanting on the entire mystery plot. The book itself isn’t bad and I like all the characters well enough. I do wish Kalb delved deeper beneath the surface, though. The good guys are all fairly perfect, Ella never missteps, and there’s a flatness to everything because of this.

There are things I quite like about A Fatal First Night. I enjoyed learning more about Ella’s past and seeing how she melds her Jewish and Catholic heritage. I also liked that – despite everyone pushing her to marry Gil – Ella stands her ground and is taking the time to consider what it could mean for her career. The supporting cast members are all likeable and I appreciate how accepting everyone was – I wouldn’t mind another outing with them. Hopefully in future books we can delve more into the mystery part of the Ella Shame Mysteries and more depth (and perhaps a few flaws) will come to light.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.