Monday, November 25, 2019

Review of The Winter of Her Discontent by Kathryn Miller Haines (2008, William Morrow)

1943, New York. Rosie Winter is an aspiring actress looking for her big break. When a minor star who used to live in the same boarding house in which Rosie now resides is found murdered and her mob friend, Al, claims responsibility she decides to investigate. Convinced that Al is innocent and is taking the rap for other reasons, she auditions for dance chorus with her room-mate, Jayne, in the play the actress had been cast in a leading role. She quickly discovers that the play is backed by a mobster, there is something shady going on in the theatre, and the play is a flop in-waiting. To make matters worse her fellow actresses are on edge and seem obsessed with a Broadway dance hall for service men, and her boyfriend is missing in action. Along with Jayne, Rosie pokes her nose in where it isn’t wanted, trying to discover who killed the actress, whether it’s linked to the strange events at the theatre, and why Al is taking the fall for a crime he didn’t commit.

The Winter of Her Discontent is the second book in the Rosie Winter mystery series set in World War Two. Rosie is an actress with Mob connections who used to work for a detective agency and turns her hand to solving murders. In this outing, set in 1943, her Mob-friend Al has confessed to a murder he didn’t commit and she’s determined to find the real killer. The victim is an actress who was set to star in a Broadway play. Rosie and her roommate, Jayne, audition for the dance chorus so they can investigate. It quickly becomes clear that the play is being set up to fail and someone has a vendetta against the lead actresses. Taking the form of a cosy mystery, Miller Haines spins out Rosie’s investigation, which soon splits into a couple of strands and also deals with tensions in Rosie’s boarding house and her attempt to find out more about her boyfriend’s missing in action status. There’s plenty going on, though it’s a little slow at times, all pretty staged (perhaps no surprise given its theatre theme) and reasonably well telegraphed. I never really warmed to Rosie, the story often teetered on the edge of credibility, and Al’s confession made very little sense given the lack of evidence and he could have just gone to ground instead. Nonetheless, it’s engaging and entertaining enough read.

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