"Death in a Summer Colony" by Michigan author Aaron Stander (Writers & Editors, 15.95) is the seventh in his popular series starring Cedar County Sheriff Ray Elkins.
The oversized paperback is set in Northern Michigan, near Traverse City, at the Mission Point Summer Colony, a collection of 250 aging cottages.
The area's population swells during the beautiful summertime there, when the longtime residents are joined by others seeking rest and relaxation.
This time out, Elkins has a tough case on his hands, as billionaire industrialist Malcolm Wudbridge is discovered dead backstage during the presentation of a stage adaptation at the area's aging auditorium.
Wudbridge was acting in Agatha Christie's "Death at the Vicarage". Ironically, he had a role as a dead victim, playing the role of wealthy Colonel Protheroe, a much-loathed character.
An intense thunderstorm with heavy lightning flashes had shaken the old auditorium. The strained lighting system had flickered and briefly gone out. It quickly came on again, but just after the first intermission the entire building went dark.
Elkins is summoned from the audience when the power is restored; it's discovered that Wudbridge had been murdered in an unusual fashion.
The rest of the book is a solid police procedural and whodunit, as Elkins and Deputy Sue Lawrence investigate.
There are 20 possible suspects, including assorted family members, cast and crew; so tracking down the clever killer (or killers) is not going to be an easy task.
Elkins and Lawrence diligently question them all, finding a wide variety of reasons for murdering the much-despised Wudbridge.
Not all of the information initially matches; the investigators find some witnesses unreliable and others belligerent.
Delving deeper, they hear many disturbing stories about Wudbridge and his relationships; they get useful assistance from an unexpected source.
Stander is in fine form in creating an intriguing, atmospheric tale that should please his many fans.
To follow the character's growth, it's best to read the excellent Elkins police procedurals in order. The series begins with "Summer People", "Color Tour" and "Deer Season". Other novels in the series are "Shelf Ice", "Medieval Murders" and "Cruelest Month".
Stander is a highly talented author who is also host of the monthly show "Michigan Writers on the Air" on Interlochen Public Radio.
Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop,
has reviewed crime novels and Michigan books regularly since 1987.
Find this and other books by great Michigan authors
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This review was published by the Lansing State Journal on August 18, 2013.