Opening night on Broadway can be murder. In novelist Carol O'Connell's It Happens in the Dark, the latest in her series featuring detective Kathy Mallory, it is — literally. First a woman in the front row dies of a heart attack, prompting caustic critics to call the show ''a play to die for.'' Then the playwright is found — also in the front row — with his throat slashed. A few days later, it's the director who dies. Mallory, a member of the NYPD Special Crimes Unit, has her pick of suspects. There's the show's handsome leading man, who happens to be persona non grata in Hollywood, and the wardrobe mistress, who's really a washed-up actress bent on getting back onstage. There's also the Yale-educated, award-winning actor who's been reduced to being a production gofer and the powerful theater critic who wants to destroy what's left of the dead playwright's reputation.
Mallory doesn't like all the dead bodies piling up. She also doesn't like the notes being left backstage by some unknown writer. Some of the messages are new cues or rewritten dialogue. Some are directed at Mallory: ''Cruel, I know, but you must lose your lovely head. Oh, the bloody things I do for art.'' By the time the last note comes — ''Tonight’s the night. Nothing personal'' — Mallory connects the current murders with a massacre that happened long ago. Can she unmask the killer before the final curtain? Not without exposing a few secrets and uncovering a few lies that somebody desperately wants to keep hidden.
O'Connell appears at a reading/signing session today at 6:30 p.m. Murder by the Book, 2342 Bissonnet. For information, call 713‑524‑8597 or visit murderbooks.com. Free.
Wed., Aug. 21, 6:30 p.m., 2013