Judith Flanders directs a witty, well-plotted narrative of murder onstage and off in her fourth Sam Clair mystery, A Howl of Wolves. Sam generally prefers books to theatrical productions: she is an editor, after all. But when her friend and neighbor Kay and Kay's young son, Bim, land bit parts in a West End show, Sam and her detective boyfriend, Jake, drag themselves to opening night. While the gore-filled play contains more (fake) blood than brilliance, both audience and cast are shocked as the second-act curtain opens to reveal the hanged body of the production's director spinning above the stage. Both Sam and Jake are drawn into the resulting murder investigation--Jake in his professional capacity, and Sam through her connection to Kay and Bim (and her insatiable curiosity).
Flanders (A Cast of Vultures) gives nearly equal treatment to Sam's day job--prep for her company's sales conference, dull editorial meetings--and the spare time she spends chasing down obscure leads. Sam's sleuthing skills lead her to various corners of London, including a costume design archive, an inheritance case from postwar Germany and a few posh drinks parties with her solicitor mother, Helena. Meanwhile, Sam spends hours backstage looking after Bim (and checking for clues); plots with her female colleagues to combat sexism at the office; and wrings helpful information from unlikely sources, including her elderly upstairs neighbor. The plot threads, woven together by Sam's keen observations and wry asides, coalesce into a satisfying denouement for mystery and theatre fans. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams