Macdeath

Macdeath, #1 in the Ivy Meadows seriesMacD Jenna

Nominated for an Agatha Award for best debut mystery!

“This gut-splitting mystery is a hilarious riff on an avant-garde production of ‘the Scottish play’Combining humor and pathos can be risky in a whodunit, but gifted author Brown makes it work.”Mystery Scene Magazine

“Funny and unexpectedly poignant, Macdeath is that rarest of creatures, a mystery that will make you laugh out loud. I loved it!” April Henry, New York Times best-selling author

“The author has joined the handful (or two) of authors that I wait in breathless anticipation for their releases, who I will put down what I’m reading to pick up their book. HIGHLY recommended.” The Gal in the Blue Mask.blogspot

A sneak peek:

CHAPTER 1

So Fair and Foul a Day

Like every actor, I knew Macbeth was cursed, that death and destruction and all manner of bad things happen during the show. You’d think I would’ve remembered this the day of my audition.

“My name is Ivy Meadows, and I am an actress!” Yuck. I grimaced at myself in the rearview mirror and started up my car. I felt stupid doing these affirmations, and especially stupid when I did them badly. I was an actress, dammit, albeit one who didn’t make a living at it, yet. Bob always says it’s just a matter of time before someone recognizes my beauty, worth, and talent. My Uncle Bob, that is, not Boyfriend Bob. That’s an affirmation for another day.

I put my little green Aspire in gear, pulled out of my apartment’s parking lot, and headed for Phoenix Shakespeare Theater. I had scored a blue silk top off the sale rack at Re-Dud, and felt very elegant, very professional, very “classical”—for about three minutes. That’s when I noticed my car’s air conditioning was still blowing hot air. Which meant no air conditioning.

I took a deep breath. “My name is Ivy Meadows and I am an actress!”

The affirmation worked about as well as the air conditioning. The hundred-and-one degree day wasn’t bad for August, but skyscraper-tall thunderheads made the air unusually muggy. My blouse was beginning to stick to my armpits.

“My name is Ivy Meadows and I am an actress!”

The car was heating up, but the affirmation was sounding better. I was getting used to my new name. It had taken me awhile to come up with it. I had tried what my drag queen friends do—that is, taking the name of your first pet and combining it with the name of the street where you grew up. They came up with great names like Mitzi Eldorado or Squeaky Dora, but mine ended up being Stubby Rural Route Number Two. So instead I took my name from a subdivision off the 51 that has neither ivy nor meadows, this being Phoenix and all.

Something tickled. I looked down. Sweat rivulets were streaking dark indigo stripes down my peacock-blue blouse. The dashboard clock showed just twenty minutes before my scheduled audition time. No time to go home and change. Dang, dang, dang! I really wanted this gig. Getting cast in this show could launch my career in acting.

I could do this. After all, “My name is Ivy Meadows and I am an actress!” I turned the fan on high, stepped on the gas, and zoomed toward the theater.

By the time I reached the theater parking lot, my top was soaked, stuck to me like Saran Wrap. But what could I do? I jogged to the stage door, heels sinking slightly into the melting asphalt of the parking lot, and shoved open the door. Inside, the blast of the air conditioning against my wet blouse gave me goose bumps, and nipples. It wasn’t a look I was going for right then.

I ran into the hallway and tossed my headshot and résumé to a sturdy woman with close-cropped brown hair and a stick-on name tag that read “Linda, Stage Manager.”

“Ivy Meadows,” I yelled. “Two twenty. I’ll be right back.”

I turned around and ran right into Simon Black. Yes, the Simon Black. We’d worked together on an independent film a few months earlier—a film that never got made when Simon, its star, didn’t show up on the final day of the shoot.

“Lovely to see you again.” The aging star was looking a bit tarnished—dark circles under his brilliant blue eyes, a slight whiff of alcohol on his breath. It didn’t matter. He still had the voice. Deep and rumbling with a fabulous English accent, that voice had graced the stages of the Royal Shakespeare Company and thundered from movie screens in multiplexes. Only to wash up in Phoenix.

“I love you as a blonde, my dear, but…” He eyed my Saran Wrap blouse.

“I know. Gotta run.” I headed for the restroom. As I skidded into the bathroom, Simon called, “Break a leg.”

Instead I broke a heel. Right off. I’d just splurged twelve whole dollars at Payless for those piece-of-crap black vinyl pumps.

Soldiering on, I stuck my indigo-blue armpit under the hand dryer, then yelped as a gust of cold air shocked my system. I banged on the stupid thing and burst into tears.

A knock, and Simon poked his head in. “Everything alright?”

I looked at him with mascara-raccoon eyes, wearing one shoe, a wet blouse, and nipples.

“Ah,” he said. “I see.”

About a minute later, the stage manager pushed the door open and tossed me a leopard-spotted leotard. A hideous leopard- spotted leotard. “Simon said you needed this.”

I tore off my top and skirt, kicked off my one good shoe, and pulled on the leotard. It fit, tightly, but off the shoulder—there was no way to wear my bra with it. I wriggled out of my bra and pulled my stretchy black skirt on over the leotard. I glanced in the mirror. Actually, it wasn’t too bad, except for the mascara running down my…

“You’re up.” Linda pulled me out of the bathroom and into my new, very Shakespearean life, one full of love and betrayal—and murder.

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