Ivy Meadows Mysteries – She’s back in Ivy Get Your Gun
by McKenna, Staff Reviewer
There are various elements that drive a story, and two of those are the plot and characters. A stellar storyline can often overshadow mediocre characters, and vice versa. In Ivy Get Your Gun, the storyline is fantastic. The actions unfolds quickly as Ivy slowly picks up the various pieces of Mongo’s murder and Lassie’s disappearance. I loved seeing the puzzle come together and feeling the tension as Ivy grew closer to the culprit. On a side note, Ivy is the epitome of a strong female lead; as she sticks to her convictions and doesn’t rely on other people to do the work for her. I especially loved when she retold her rather sexist acting director to stop referring to her as “woman.” This attitude is especially refreshing after reading novels in which the female heroine relies on a boyfriend or other male partner to get her out of dicey situations.
That being said, I wish the author had given more of a voice to the male characters in the novel. I want to know more about Josh, and Matt, and even Frank. In fact, my favorite character in the novel was Ivy’s brother Cody, and I was disappointed that he was only given a few scenes. Many of the male characters spoke very similarly, and it was difficult to differentiate who was speaking. I wish the author had taken more time to introduce the secondary characters so we could learn their backstories and motivations. Although the plot moved seamlessly, I felt an absence of emotion at times when I should have felt the rage and tears along with Ivy. Still, the stellar action scenes and carefully drawn-out mystery were enough to keep me engaged. When Ivy finally uncovers the mystery, I saw how all the little clues and conversations throughout the story were slowly laying a foundation for the climax. This almost made up for the lack of emotional punch. While light on character depth, this is a fun and action-packed read that will leave you wanting more adventures with Ms. Ivy Meadows.
Cindy Brown has been a theater geek (musician, actor, director, producer, and playwright) since her first professional gig at age 14. Now a full-time writer, she’s lucky enough to have garnered an Agatha Award nomination for best debut novel (MACDEATH), a scholarship to the Squaw Valley Writers Workshop, and several awards for her fiction, playwriting and screenwriting work.
In Cindy Brown’s The Sound of Murder, Book Two of “An Ivy Meadows Mystery,” Ivy returns for another fun show. Okay so the murder part isn’t really a fun matter, but Ivy and her uncle are so very much a fun performance. This second in the series adds to, not repeats, details of Ivy’s world for a continuous peek into what’s behind the curtain of local theatre. Cindy Brown skillfully sets the story off and running right from the first paragraph. I am immediately involved in the chaos of theatre business, the forward motion of plot development, and engaging, properly odd characters.
Small moments, such as thoughts of stealing exclamation marks or Larry locating a book of matches while Ivy holds back from screaming, reveal character, enhance stage business, and add to pacing variation and scene involvement. The overall plot is solid with a clean resolution, although I would like a stronger emphasis on the subplot between Ivy and Uncle Bob or Ivy and Cody.
The main characters are nicely presented and each is believable with individual traits, mannerisms, and viewpoints. Good characters, even secondary ones, enhance the story line, advance the plot, relieve tension, or convey information. And are believable within the world created. However, good characters are not perfect and should have flaws and worries. As Ivy does. Her issues with brother Cody add to the depth needed to encourage reader investment into the story. I adore Uncle Bob and there may have been a glimpse into some of his own backstory, which keeps me intrigued enough to patiently wait for book three. Are these characters memorable and interesting enough to have lunch with and interview? Yes, I think Ivy, Cody, and Uncle Bob can withstand the character interview test.
In choosing which of the six elements as strongest, I am selecting dialogue. As a playwright myself, I am convinced Ms. Brown’s talent with dialogue is because of her theatrical background. Real speech patterns, dropped lines, attention to what is not said, and letting us hear the way Ivy thinks, makes this story fun to read.
Cheers to Ms. Brown for pulling us along through character action and dialogue instead of having us follow events through narration and exposition. And I’m so happy to learn that eating out for a good cause karmically cancels calories.
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Macdeath was a surprising delight. The writing is smooth, with an overall bright and crisp tone and style. I was quickly immersed in all that was going on before me, clearly and freshly described through action and dialogue. Right from page one, the author led me into Ivy’s world, surrounded by props, backstage curtains, and musty costumes. There are sly, dropped-in lines that will surprise a chuckle out of you. Uncle Bob is fun to be around with a story of his own, and the author drops tidbits of exposition here and there. Not heavy enough to throw you against the backdrop, but enough so you frequently raise an eyebrow and want more. The Cody issue added a nice layer to Olive-y Meadows and several moments will gently tug at your emotions. I almost didn’t read it because of the unappealing cover art. Then I read Cindy Brown’s interview responses here, and was so very charmed by the author and her style that I gave it a read. Good thing. Between learning important things such as how to get change in a parking garage, to climbing in and out of a cauldron, I was pleased to have discovered this author and will keep an eye out for her next book. Reward yourself with a very pleasant night at the theatre. Ivy is, indeed, contagious.As an added treat, check out Cindy Brown’s site and her blog (including best places to hide a body). Ms. Brown is pure delight.