A Moment in Crime: A Santa Fe Revival Mystery
A Moment in Crime is the second in Allen’s Santa Fe Revival mystery series. War widow and painter Maddie Alwin, enjoying a party at the Museum of Fine Arts, with her paintings on display, is startled by the arrival of her distraught cousin, Gwen. This book’s prologue establishes that Gwen and Maddie, daughters of New York society, were as close as sisters and uninterested in the plans their parents had for them. Maddie dreams of studying painting in Paris while Gwen wants to be an actress. By 1922, Maddie has settled in Santa Fe, and Gwen has gone on to California to act. Gwen’s latest movie, a Western, is on location in Santa Fe, and she’s had an unhappy love affair with the film’s married director. Of course, his wife is the leading lady. When the director, Luther Bishop, is discovered dead by hanging, Gwen is the prime suspect.
I felt a bit of a sophomore slump with this one. Maddie remains an interesting character, breaking the mold her parents wished to put her in, but she spends much of the book playing “what if I had stayed in New York?” The presence of her cousin and another childhood friend who’s the writer on the film prompt these musings, and they don’t advance the plot or her relationship with David, the handsome British doctor she met in the first book. The movie set means there are a wealth of characters that have their own motives for wishing Bishop dead, but none stand out. The result is a denouement that I greeted with a shrug. What does stand out is the beauty and history of Santa Fe. Allen writes Santa Fe as Maddie paints it, with vivid blue skies and sunlight. So, yes, I’ll come back for the third.