I love candy corn, the traditional kind with the yellow bottom, orange middle, and white tip. I could eat it by the handfuls, even though it really isn’t good for me, there’s no complexity to the flavor. But it’s such a treat and makes me happy.
That’s kind of how I felt about Ding Dong the Diva’s Dead by Cat Melodia. (I’m sorry that’s got to be one of the worst nom de plumes I’ve heard recently.) It’s a light, fun, perky mystery that kept me reading, even when I should have been working. It takes place behind the scenes at a small opera company. One of the singers has died in an “accident,” and Debbie de Lille is called in to take her place as Nicklauss in Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffman. Odd things keep happening, smoke bombs, threatening phone calls, a fire. Who’s behind it all? And is Debbie going to make it to opening night alive?
The actual whodunnit plays second fiddle to the quirky, over-the top in a good way characters. The story is told from Debbie’s point of view. She’s funny and sees a lot of what’s going on. Of course, she can be a little dramatic, which is only to be expected. And she has a tendency to be naked when she needs rescued. Joining her are the rest of the cast, each full of themselves to some degree or other and there are love triangles and gossip galore. Like I said- pure fun. To be honest, I didn’t care who the culprit was, I was just enjoying the people. You got the opera singers with all the requisite scheming and undermining each other. The conductor who can be more than mean when the occasion demand it. The too cool lesbian director who keeps hitting on Debbie. And the rich, sexy general director Debbie is falling for. Oh, and a ghost and an anti-opera terrorist group, believe it or not. Sounds like a lot of characters and it is. I can’t say they’re all well-developed, some are little more than stereotypes, but they were perfect. They’re all nuts.
As a mystery, I may have found it a little disappointing, if I hadn’t been so distracted by the characters. There are plenty of motives and red-herrings, but it felt more like a mystery tacked on to “backstage at the opera.” The opera company was the star, not the mystery, which worked well for me.
Now I need to see if I can find a DVD of Tales of Hoffman, but I doubt it will hold up to the version I now have in my head. Hey, wait a minute, did somebody mix some raisins in with my candy? Now I know the basic plot of an opera I hadn’t before and am actually trying to figure out how to get my David to watch it with me.
3½ out of 5 stars
Category: Mystery & Detective – Women Sleuths
Published January 30, 2011 by Camel Press
Book source: For review