My second book for the Global Challlenge this year takes me to New Zealand and a book I learned about from Kiwi crime fiction blogger Craig Sisterson. I’ve no clue how the digital age is going to impact writers and publishing in the long term but this is one of those books I would never have read if it hadn’t been available to me electronically. It cost me $4US at Smashwords and would have cost $30 + shipping to import it here in physical format if I could get the sole New Zealand store stocking it to ship it to me which appears unlikely from their website.
At the Regent Theatre in the small town of Whetford, New Zealand the resident amateur dramatic society are preparing for their next show which, they’ve decided, will be Agatha Christie’s Appointment With Death. They can just about afford well-known Director Adam Bryant and have soon held auditions are are in early rehearsals when one of the cast members is gruesomely murdered. This comes on top of the news that local developers want to build a shopping mall that would require the bulldozing of the theatre and the local Council, which owns 40% of the theatre, is keen to support the move. Jessica Jones, the theatre’s manager, heads up the campaign to save the theatre and takes on an amateur sleuthing role in her zeal to protect her beloved theatre.
Robitai has done a tremendous job with her setting here, really bringing to life a historic theatre with all its creaks and ghosts and the amateur dramatic society dedicated to keeping the building and its purpose alive. By the end of the novel I was feeling terribly guilty for not supporting my own local theatres more in recent years as I too have spent many happy hours at such places in the past and I liked the way the novel demonstrated the cultural value of such buildings.
There’s also a delightful cast of characters in this classic whodunnit. Refreshingly our leading heroine is not considered a suspect (well only for a moment) and becomes a conduit of sorts to the police investigation, which she doesn’t mind at all given that Jack Matherson, the detective in charge of the case, is attractive and funny. The pool of possible culprits is extensive and their personal stories are nicely varied. None are really explored in great depth but there is enough to get a sense of them as people and as a collective of ‘average’, community-spirited people they are very credible.
The mystery element itself is reasonably straight forward and would need a couple more twists and turns for seasoned readers of the genre, but the plot is logical and the big reveal at the end manages not to go too far overboard. The humorous tone of the writing, especially the dialogue between Jessica and Jack, suits the light, fun tone of the novel and there really is a lovely, genuine feel to the story. I will be keeping an eye out for more from this talented debut author.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
My rating 3.5/5
Author website http://bevrobitai.co.nz/aboutme.htm
Publisher Smashwords 
Length 209 pages
Format eBook (ePub)
Book Series #1 (perhaps?) in a series featuring the theatre?
Source I bought it