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by Michael Craft
St Martin's Minotaur, August 2005
272 pages
ISBN: 0312334230

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Claire Gray is the head of the drama department of the Desert Arts College, an institution funded and founded by D Glenn Yeats, owner of a very successful computer business and one of the richest men in the world.

Claire had been a rising star of the New York Theater as a director until Yeats lured her to his college with the understanding that the drama department and the fabulous theater is hers to direct. Claire considers Yeats to be a friend only and she does her best not to let him imagine their relationship could become more.

This year, Claire decides to use Daphne du Maurier's stage version of Rebecca as the opening production of the year. She's spending that summer session using one of her students, Yeats' talented daughter Paige, to iron out any wrinkles of the upcoming production.

When Yeats asks her to come to a dinner party put together to soften the visit of his second ex-wife, Felicia, a woman always on the warpath, Claire goes to the party along with her friend and costume mistress extraordinaire Kiki. When Felicia is found dead the next morning, Claire's best pal's attractive, but married brother Larry enters the case to solve the crime. Soon Larry is welcoming Claire's company as he goes about his investigation. Something about the death is calling to Claire and she's not a person to leave things alone.

DESERT SUMMER by Michael Craft is the fourth in this series. Having a theater director as the amateur sleuth is an interesting twist and learning about how theater people work their way through a script was fascinating. The mystery, on the whole, isn't action-packed, exciting or filled with any tension. Claire is included in the police investigation very easily and it's a little surprising that no one takes exception to a civilian asking all the questions. The story progresses smoothly but no one is able to solve the crime. Luckily the solution is finally supplied by Claire and all because of the theater production she just happened to select for that season.

The mystery in DESERT SUMMER was pleasantly low key, but the personalities of the characters grated on me a bit. All are quite wealthy, pampered and tend to judge people too easily to be likeable.

DESERT SUMMER is fast reading and pleasing enough. It reminded me to look for the film version of Rebecca on cable and gave some interesting background on the differences between the movie and the stage play. If you need a book to read in an afternoon, DESERT SUMMER is just right.

Reviewed by Sharon Katz, September 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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