Story Rating: 3.5 stars
Audio Rating: 4.5 stars
Narrator: Michael Gilboe
Length: 6 hours, 19 minutes
Quiet Treemeadow college has become anything but quiet as Professor Nicky Abbondanza and Associate Professor Noah Oliver are dragged into a murder investigation when a fellow professor is found stabbed in his office. The police have their suspicions, with Noah at the top of their list, while Nicky and Noah have suspicions of their own.
While playing Holmes and Watson in an effort to clear their own names, Nicky and Noah uncover clue after clue, secret after secret, as one by one, other members of the drama department are discovered dead by various means and the department is closed down for the investigation.
Will the Treemeadow drama department ever recover from these heinous murders? Will Nicky and Noah finally get together? Will the play ever go on?
Drama Queen took me back to my days in high school drama when our director would select fun, entertaining, comedic spoofs for us to enact. Now we did not have the budget, equipment, or sets described in Drama Queen, but I can tell you that the drama in the drama department was spot on.
As is fitting for this type of story, the characters were on the two-dimensional side, even our main characters Nicky and Noah. The story was told from Nicky’s POV and he uses asides and internal dialogue throughout the story to lighten the mood and to attempt to inject humorous one-liners about various other characters, or even himself. The many secondary characters didn’t remain many for long as most of them met untimely demises in the course of the mystery.
As a person who lives with bi-polar disorder, the portrayal of a randomly self-medicating professor, and the descriptions of the effects of said medication, was so far from the true course of treatment for bi-polar disorder that I could do nothing but nod my head at the absurdity. Cosentino also used mental illness as comedic fodder referring to the same character as needing “two funerals” for her two personalities, when in fact multiple personality, and bi-polar disorder are very different mental illnesses.
Using racial stereotypes as descriptors for the characters (African American, Latina etc…) was another area where Cosentino went a bit too far. There are subtle ways to describe the physical appearance of a character and sadly Cosentino chose the obvious and less sensitive “laundry list” method.
I have to give props to narrator Gilboe. He gave the characters individual voices and maintained consistency throughout the story. Nicky and Noah and a few other characters had what I feel were authentic voices and the rest of the cast were more along the lines of caricatures based on their personalities — depressed, manic, hyper, an so on. Because the voices mirrored the character’s moods, this allowed Gilboe to vary the pace and play with intonation, which added variety to the narration.
Thankfully I am not one to offend easily, and so the issues I had with the story were not the be all and end all for me. As a former theater student, I could appreciate where Cosentino was coming from and could let myself become immersed in this well plotted, fun whodunit that left me guessing up until the end.
P.S. You can also check out Wendy’s review of the ebook version of this story.
Note from the author: Due to a technical error, for a short period of time some people who purchased from Amazon the Kindle version of DRAMA QUEEN, the first Nicky and Noah mystery by Joe Cosentino published by Lethe Press, did not receive the entire ebook. If this happened to you, our sincere apologies. The problem has been corrected. Please update your Kindle file and you will have the entire book. If you have a problem, please contact me at http://www.JoeCosentino.weebly.com. If you purchased it on Amazon and returned it for refund, please purchase it again and enjoy the full book! The paperback and audiobook were not affected by this technical error. Thank you! Joe Cosentino