EXIT ACTORS, DYING
By: Margot Arnold
Foul Play Press, Woodstock, Vermont
With no recent publications (that I know of) of archaeology
mysteries/thrillers, I was forced to my bookshelves to find a subject
for this month’s review. By
doing so, I felt like I had run into some old friends when I happened
upon Exit Actors, Dying, the first in the Penny Spring and Sir
Toby Glendower mystery series, written by Margot Arnold.
The series includes twelve volumes and presents readers with an even
dozen wonderful mysteries of the traditional “cozy” type.
The beauty of these little stories (most are about 200 pages in
length) is less in plotline than it is in characterization and local
color. A few take place in
New England and the rest in exotic locations that include France, Italy,
Scotland and so on. But the
stories ultimately hinge on the two protagonists, Penny Spring and Sir
Penny is a 50s-something New England-born anthropologist (Ph.D. from
Columbia) who is, during the course of the series, a lecturer at Oxford
University. She has done
fieldwork in the Marquesas, East and South Africa, Uzbekistan, India,
and among a variety of Native American cultures in the U.S. Her publications include Sex in the South Pacific
(1957), The Position of Women in Pastoral Societies (1962), Moslem
Women (1970), among others.
Sir Toby is a Welshman, born a few years before Penny, who earned his
doctorate in archaeology from Oxford. As Exit Actors, Dying unfolds, he has participated in
more than 30 major archaeological digs and his publications include the
very popular What Not to Do in Archaeology (1960) and What to
Do in Archaeology (1970). He
was knighted in 1977.
Toby and Penny seem to share a truly platonic relationship, based on
mutual respect, friendship and shared intellectual interests.
They also quarrel like any happily married couple and Penny
particularly takes exception to Toby’s love for the fruit of the vine!
The relationship is lovingly and subtly developed by Margot
Arnold through out the twelve volumes, and would be a joy to read about
even if there were no mysteries to solve!
In brief, Exit Actors, Dying finds Penny and Toby touring
ancient Greek sites in modern day Turkey. On the stage of a beautifully preserved amphitheatre, Penny
literally stumbles over the corpse of a beautiful young woman dressed in
the costume of an ancient Greek. She
becomes instantly aware that she is being observed by someone standing
at the top of the amphitheatre -- a huge figure clad in the battle dress
of a Roman legionnaire! What
follows is an almost keystone cops-type mystery that includes
disappearing corpses, the filming of a movie entitled, “The Travels of
Telemachus,” (that seems destined for immediate viewing on Mystery
Science Theatre 2000), looted artifacts and the age old question,
“Well, I wonder who is sleeping with whom?” It’s a wonderfully light story and a great beginning for a
series of books of which I am very fond.