A Catskills resort's production of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet takes a wickedly ironic turn when the leading lady, Lauren Richmond, is first poisoned and then stabbed. Who would extinguish the life of such a beautiful young thespian? It seems like just about everyone had a motive to pull the ropes on her final curtain call. At the center of this Shakespearean tragedy is Charlotte Fairfax, formerly the costume mistress of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
"Damned by faint praise"
As the Christmas holidays begin at Maude Daneson's rooming house, unsuspecting lodgers receive a most unwelcome present from the person responsible for a series of senseless and bizarre murders - a killer much more cunning than they had suspected.
England, late 1547. King Henry VIII is dead. His 14-year-old daughter Elizabeth is living with the king's widow, Catherine Parr, and her new husband, Thomas Seymour. Seymour is the brother of Henry VIII's third wife, the late Jane Seymour, who was the mother to the now-ailing boy king. Ambitious and dangerous, Seymour begins an overt flirtation with Elizabeth that ends with Catherine sending her away. When Catherine dies a year later and Seymour is arrested for treason soon after, a scandal explodes.
Political unrest permeates York at the cusp of the 15th century, as warring factions take sides on who should be the rightful king - Richard II or his estranged, powerful cousin in exile, Henry Bolingbroke. Independent-minded 20-year-old Kate Clifford is struggling to dig out from beneath the debt left by her late husband. Determined to find a way to be secure in her own wealth and establish her independence in a male-dominated society, Kate turns one of her properties near the minster into a guesthouse and sets up a business.
When Sidney Grice journeys to Yorkshire to solve a mysterious death, March Middleton, his ward, is left to her own devices in a London swarming with danger and vice. Curiosity, as we know, has a dark edge. So when an intriguing letter leads March to the gates of the palatial Saturn Villa and into the nightmarish world of her long-lost uncle, it could be the beginning of an end for all.
"Why the narrator switch?"
A lifetime of craving cuddlier companionship than her hectoring mother has led 40ish Bettina Bilby to board her neighbors' felines - an expectant tabby, a pampered blue-eyed Balinese, a depressed ginger Persian with a cod-liver-oil addiction, and Adolf, an imperious mouser with a patchwork face - for a long holiday weekend.
When millionaire Arthur Arbuthnot mistakes gossip maven Annabel Hinchby-Smythe for a decorator - and hires her to redecorate his apartment - the fiscally challenged Annabel can't refuse. When she sees Arbuthnot's tatty London flat, she knows anything will be an improvement. And any gossip she can dig up will be pure gold for the tabloids. But when Arthur is found dead, his frisky relatives begin to lick their chops. Arbuthnot's beloved tabby, Sally, was the only witness to the homicide - and the sole heir to his estate.
It's the most important night of the year for the Catskills Shakespeare Theater Company: the annual fundraising performance at the country estate of the wealthy widow Paula Van Dusen. And this year promises to be even more special as the company will give a moonlight performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream as part of the wedding celebrations for Paula's daughter, Belinda, and her fiancé Adrian. But "the course of true love never did run smooth", and in the wake of a disastrous after-party, the stage is set for murder.