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These Cozy Theater Mysteries Set the Stage for Murder

Crack the case in the limelight. 

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  • Photo Credit: Featured photo: Gwen King / Unsplash

There’s no magic quite like theater magic. While movies can have all sorts of special effects through CGI and green screens, theaters bring the magic to you live. Sets appear and disappear in the blink of a hat; the actors convince you they are another person, right in front of you.

In addition to the magic in front of the stage, there’s the magic and mystery behind the scenes; the superstitions and traditions that are part and parcel of the theater, from saying “Break a Leg” instead of “Good Luck” or not saying MacBeth in a theater.

Add the drama of the personalities of the performers with requited and unrequited loves, petty jealousies, and a touch of murder—and the show is ready for action. Here are eight cozy and traditional mysteries involving the world of theater.

meta mystery novels

Death in Castle Dark

By Veronica Bond

This book brings together the world of mystery and theater in one perfect package. Nora Blake wants to make her career as an actress a success. So that means taking some more unusual jobs like becoming a member of a murder mystery acting group in a castle. Guests sign up for mystery and dinner at Castle Dark; Blake and her fellow actors put on a performance where the guests try to guess the murderer at the end of the night. She’s not sure if it’s for her but not having to worry about rent for a while seems attractive.

But soon the murder is all too real when one of the actors shows up dead in the middle of a performance. Is she at risk? Does she want to stay at Castle Dark? It’s the first of two A Dinner and A Mystery series.


Antiques Fate

By Barbara Allan

Vivian Borne has the chance of a lifetime to perform her one-woman performance of MacBeth (aka the Scottish Play) at a festival in Old York. Her daughter Brandy and her dog Sushi, join her for the show. The curse of the Scottish Play seems to take effect as the theater owner drops dead onstage. Now Vivian and Brandy have to figure out who wanted the owner out of the spotlight forever.

It’s the 11th book in the Trash ‘N Treasures series.


Mrs. Pickles' Perilous Parting

By K.P. Stafford

Every theater has ghosts so naturally, this cozy features Farley, the theater ghost. Jessica James has inherited the theater from her parents and wants to keep it going. But when her leading lady is killed, she has to find a replacement and solve the murder if she wants to keep the curtains open.

It’s the first of two in the Mystery Theater Presents series.


Quick Curtain

By Alan Melville

Initially published in 1934, this book has been brought back to readers through the British Library Crime Classics collection. The debut of Douglas B. Douglas’ new musical is going terribly. The lead dies on stage; another actor falls to his death in the theater. Inspector Wilson is brought in to figure out who killed both men; was it murder and suicide? Or does someone want to take the limelight?


Murder Has a Motive

By Francis Duncan

Retired Tobacconist Mordecai Tremaine just wanted to take a break in the village of Dalmering with friends, a local doctor and his wife. But as he arrives, he learns that a local woman, the lead in an amateur theater group, has been found dead in the woods. Given Tremaine's experience in solving crimes in his retirement, he’s drawn in. He feels that the production “Murder has a Motive” may prove essential to solving the case.

It’s the second in the nine-book Mordecai Tremaine series.


The Queen's Head

By Edward Marston

Here’s a title for historical mystery lovers. Taking place in Elizabethan England, Nicholas Bracewell has a lot on his hands as the bookholder for the Lord Westfield’s Men. Bracewell needs to find the right replacement for an actor who is murdered as well as keep the promise to solve the dead man’s murder. But the theater company’s bad luck continues with accidents and other foul deeds. Can Bracewell keep the company together and find justice?

It’s the first in 16 books in the Nicholas Bracewell/An Elizabethan Mystery series.


Untimely Death

By Elizabeth Duncan

This series brings together the world of Shakespeare with the Catskills. Charlotte Fairfax has taken a job as the costume designer for a Catskills resort’s production of Romeo and Juliet. Formerly, she worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company, but love brought her to the US. Unfortunately, the leading lady dies from poisoning and stabbing and the police suspect a young man of the crime. Charlotte decides she has to find the killer and remove suspicion from the unlucky fellow who just wanted to be part of the theater.

It’s the first of three books in the Shakespeare in the Catskills Mystery series.


Rehearsed to Death

By Frank Anthony Polito

Peter “PJ” Penwell and JP Broadway are behind the successful reality home renovation series Domestic Partners. But solving people’s renovation crises isn't all they do; they solve murders. Peter also writes them. Now one of his works is going to be performed on stage with JP as the lead actor. Unfortunately, the director, Xander Sherwood Deva, is keen on making more enemies than friends until he’s found dead before the opening. Now Peter and JP have to find the killer so the show will go on.

It’s the second in this new “quozy” (queer cozy) mystery series.

Featured image: Gwen King / Unsplash