Title: The Phantom of Oz (5th in series)
Author: Cindy Brown
Publisher: Henery Press, 2018. 268 pages (paperback)
Source: Electronic ARC from Great Escapes Book Tours
Creepy munchkins. A mysterious phantom. And a real Wicked Witch. Are you ready for it?
Actress and part-time PI Ivy Meadows has been hired to uncover the cause of the creepy accidents that plague the roadshow The Wizard: A Space OZpera and find out who dropped a chandelier on the Wicked Witch of the East.
Was it the ghost who haunts the Grand Phoenician Theatre? A “wicked witch” in the cast? Or is it someone—or something—more sinister?
It’s Ivy’s most personal case so far.
Her best friend Candy, who’s touring with the show, is caught in a downward spiral of self-destruction, and is in more danger than she knows. To save her friend and the show, Ivy must answer even tougher questions: Do spirits really exist? What is real beauty? What does friendship mean?
Ivy needs to learn the answers, and fast—before Candy reaches the point of no return.
I had the pleasure of reviewing the 3rd book in the Ivy Meadows series back in 2016, and since I enjoyed it, when I saw this one come up (not sure how I missed the one in between) I had to join the tour.
Once again, Cindy Brown has spun a compelling tale about her likable detective. Ivy is a very human protagonist, with a lot of skills and a fair ability to screw up. I have to admit that her comedy of errors in the theater made me cringe a bit, but it felt like a believable bad week.
The real issue in this book isn't murder, though. It's about relationships, friendship in particular, but also body image, sexism, and being judgemental. If Ivy is stumbling a bit as an actress (thanks in large part to a very ill-timed cold), she is falling all over herself as a friend. And why? In part because she want too badly to help everyone, to make their lives better. But she's also suffering from some serious insecurity due to that bit about body image.
Somehow, Ms. Brown manages to make the serious themes fit perfectly into a light-hearted cozy mystery without weighing it down. Ivy is still a novice detective, but she handles it pretty well this time around. I knew who the perp was well before the end, but here's the thing: so did Ivy. She just wasn't ready to believe it, and it was interesting to watch her work through still more permutations of relationships to get there. She has to take a good hard look at herself before she can do what needs to be done.
Probably my only disappointment here was the ghost. That always bugs me a little, because I don't believe in ghosts. But I'll admit that a ghost kind of works in the theater, since as Ivy notes every theater has its ghost, and theater people love to believe in them. Or "believe" in them. So it's kind of fun to see what comes of this one, and the mixing in of special effects makes it all the more fun.
This is a great addition to the world of cozies, and in my opinion is a cut above because the author deftly addresses some serious issues without ever losing her grip on the fun of the story. I took about 2 chapters to get wholly gripped, and then read through it in only a few sittings.
About the Author:
Cindy Brown has been a theater geek (musician, actor, director, producer, and playwright) since her first professional gig at age 14. Now a full-time writer, she’s lucky enough to have garnered several awards (including 3rd place in the 2013 international Words With Jam First Page Competition, judged by Sue Grafton!) and is an alumnus of the Squaw Valley Writers Workshop. Though Cindy and her husband now live in Portland, Oregon, she made her home in Phoenix, Arizona, for more than 25 years and knows all the good places to hide dead bodies in both cities.
Website & Blog: www.cindybrownwriter.com
Twitter handle: @friendlybrown
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