Matt Johanssen, a dedicated stage actor in his early fifties, is currently rehearsing a play soon to open on Broadway. Through the years Matt, in addition to his work in the theatre, has also anonymously assisted the NYPD in solving a number of crimes.
While he is in rehearsals, thirty blocks away a startling murder takes place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where a trustee is discovered on the roof of the Museum with a javelin thrust through his heart. The dramatic nature of the crime reverberates through cultural circles in Manhattan. A few days later, during a rehearsal of Matt’s Broadway-bound play, the admired, beloved lady producer of the play is found dead in the darkened basement lounge of the theatre.
Ten days later, during a gala at the American Museum of Natural History, there is another murder of a museum trustee, this one far more sensational than the one before. Working behind the scenes Matt becomes deeply involved in solving all three murders. Meanwhile, he encounters an intriguing, auburn haired woman writing about the murders, with whom he becomes involved.
Set against a background of the inner workings of the theatre, as well as the arts and cultural scenes in New York City, The Patron Murders is part detective story, part social novel, and part a witty, incisive critique of the relationship of recently acquired fortunes to the old-line arts establishments of the City.
I confess I’m pretty particular about what I read when it comes to the Mystery genre. Nowadays, mystery series it seems, more than other genres, each have to have some sort of distinctive setting (dare I say gimic?) where their stories take place. Some are centered around bakeries, others around cats or shopping. Me? I’m partial to mystery novels either set in Key West, written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, or mix genres (like the Fantasy/Mystery Dresden Files Series)– Which is to say I don’t read many mystery novels.
When asked to review a tale centered around the arts and cultural scene in New York City, my curiosity was instantly engaged. Better yet, having it written by an author with a long history of involvement in the New York theatre and cultural scene made the decision to review this very easy.
The Patron Murders is a well written and engrossing page turner. There is a perfect blend of witty dialogue, social critique and memorable characters. Our hero, Matt Johannsen is not a detective; he’s merely in the wrong place at the right time. Or the right person at the wrong time. Take your pick.
Edwin Wilson’s debut novel is a riveting tale and an in-depth personal look at the world of the theatre and artistic patronage. Wilson’s long career lends a sense of gravitas to his writing, almost as if he were actually telling a captivating tale of non-fictional events. As someone who has worked intimately in the world of cultural institutions, I particularly enjoyed his deep dive into the role of the donors or patrons. Are they truly altruistic or do they give to elevate their own status in society? (It’s a question I often ask myself…) Board members…Don’t get me started!
Ah, if only the lives of all cultural organization employees were so full of excitement and thrilling events!
At any rate, you will do well to pick up The Patron Murders, a fascinating and enthralling tale of murder by Edwin Wilson. Click Here to get your copy.
4 stars out of 5
About The Author:
Author, teacher, critic, Edwin Wilson began his career as Assistant to the Producer for the Broadway play Big Fish, Little Fish directed by John Gielgud, and the film Lord of the Flies directed by Peter Brook. He later co-produced the Broadway play Agatha Sue, I Love You, directed by George Abbott and produced the film The Nashville Sound. From 1972 to 1994 he was the theatre critic for The Wall Street Journal.Over the past four decades his three college theatre textbooks have appeared in a total of 28 editions while selling over one million copies. At one time president of the New York Drama Critics Circle and the Theatre Development Fund, he was also Chair of the Pulitzer Prize Drama Jury. The Patron Murders is Wilson’s first novel.
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