NANCY SPAIN – Cinderella Goes to the Morgue. Miriam Birdseye #3. Hutchinson, UK, hardcover, 1950. Virago Modern Classics, paperback, forthcoming: February 2022.

   Nancy Spain has taken murder in the theater, à la Ngaio Marsh, and has worked it out as farce. It is the Theatre Royal, in Atkins Street, Newchester, where the annual Christmas pantomime is being produced. This year it’s Cinderella.

   Natasha DuVivien, former ballerina, and her great friend, Miriam Birdseye, genius, are in Newchester for no good reason. Natasha fills in as “The Fairy of the Powder Puff,” when the dancer is fired for inebriation. So the two friends are immersed in the affairs of the cast, including the comedian Hampton Court, and Newchester’s mayor, Thomas Atkins, his wife and extended family.

   When the “Prince Charming,” Vivienne Gresham, falls through an open trapdoor on stage and is killed, it is clear to Miriam and Natasha that murder has been done. Vivienne’s son, and her two ex-husbands, all having to do with the pantomime, are natural suspects. When clothing coupons by the thousands are found sewn into Vivienne’s costumes, suspicion goes beyond them.

   Then there is another murder, complications pile up, and the book races to a wild conclusion. Along the way Natasha falls in love again, as usual in Spain’s books. Miriam seems to be just along for the ride, for Natasha does all the detecting.

   Read as counterpoint to the many excellent theater mysteries, this is good fun.

– Reprinted from The Poison Pen, Volume 6, Number 1 (Spring 1984).