The Opening Night Murder (A Restoration Mystery)
With Charles II’s restoration, Suzanne Thornton, an entrepreneuring former prostitute, receives license to put on plays at the Globe Theatre. Through backing provided by a former lover, the Earl of Throckmorton, she renovates the theatre and seems set for success…until a body falls onto the stage in the middle of opening night.
Rutherford admits major license (the Globe was long-destroyed by the time this novel is set), but she does a competent job with the atmosphere of Restoration London and her representation of Suzanne’s plight (a woman without family connections or protector). However, the prose is unpolished, and as a mystery, this novel falls flat. The murder doesn’t figure until the last third; the focus is entirely Suzanne’s personal life: her relationship with her former lover and her (and also his) son. This could also work, were it not for the fact that Throckmorton is supremely selfish; his callousness makes him completely unsympathetic. Suzanne’s constant attempts to forgive and depend on him as he continually disappoints are nerve-wracking in the extreme. The book’s ending hints that he’ll feature in the next offering in this series; one hopes that novel will stick more to a murder mystery plotline and leave Throckmorton waiting in the wings.