AUDITION FOR MURDER (Maggie Ryan 1967), the first Maggie Ryan mystery

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The first Maggie Ryan mystery

AUDITION FOR MURDER (Maggie Ryan 1967)

Actors Nick and Lisette O’Connor need a change. They leave New York City for a semester as artists-in-residence at a college upstate, where they take on the roles of Claudius and Ophelia, two of the professional leads in a campus production of Hamlet. Threats and accidents begin to follow Lisette, and Nick worries it might be more than just petty jealousy. Maggie Ryan, a student running lights for the show, helps investigate a mystery steeped in the turmoil of 1967 America.

About AUDITION FOR MURDER (Maggie Ryan 1967)

"It's a triple pleasure, a sophisticated theatre story, a knowing campus tale and a topnotch suspenseful mystery, with excellent characterizations and honest plotting." -- Judith Crist

"An extremely well-written tale, with a plotline that offers a jolt per page." -- CF, Booklist

"Very literate, sprinkled with surprises and offering that rarity of rarities -- fully fleshed out characters." -- Bob Ellison, Los Angeles Daily News

The Mystery Company/​Crum Creek Press edition restores to print the 1985 novel that introduced Maggie Ryan.


1. In Hell’s Kitchen in the 1960’s, talented, troubled actress Lisette O’Connor is attempting to deal with her suicidal thoughts with drugs and alcohol. Rescued again by her husband Nick, also an actor, she sees an offer to act Ophelia at an upstate college as a way out, and asks Nick to give up his good off-Broadway role to help her. Why is this a major sacrifice for him? What was (is) life like for most actors trying to make it in New York City?

2. Audition for Murder is set in 1967, when there were many social and political conflicts in the US. In today’s Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street protests, we see some of the same problems being argued in slightly different form. How did the Vietnam war affect the lives of the characters in this mystery? How did gender issues affect them? Are there similar conflicts today?

3. Lisette and Nick aren’t surprised that there is jealousy from student actresses who had hoped to play Ophelia, but worry because some of the unpleasant jokes are reckless and life-threatening. Why do they ask Maggie and Rob to help them keep the episodes quiet?

4. The story is told from two points of view, sometimes following Nick O’Connor, a professional actor, and sometimes following Ellen Wingate, a pre-law student. How do the professionals react to being among students? How do the students react to the professionals? How is Ellen’s reaction different from Maggie’s reaction? From Judy’s and Laura’s?

5. Have you had the opportunity to teach or assist students starting out in your field? How did you feel about the situation? How do you think the students felt?

6. Other important people in the mystery are the academics. Cheyenne is a professional scene designer with an academic appointment; director Brian is department chair; speech coach Grace is a professor; Dean Wagner helps run the college and represents it to alumni. How do their college responsibilities affect their relationship with the cast and crew of the centennial Hamlet?

7. Early in the book, Rob insists that Brian reschedule rehearsals so the professional actors can have more time in New York City, even though it is inconvenient for everyone else and eliminates Brian’s only time with his young son. Do you think Nick was right to support Rob’s request?

8. The author chose Hamlet for this book in part because many readers are familiar with the play and with many lines from it. What other reasons make Hamlet appropriate for this mystery?

9. Directors often stress certain aspects of the playscript to clarify their vision of the story. For example, Laurence Olivier’s famous interpretation of Hamlet emphasized Freudian theories, such as Hamlet’s Oedipal love for his mother. In Audition for Murder, the director has a different approach to Shakespeare’s text. What is it? Does it seem appropriate to the sixties?

10. Paul Rigo is a marginal student but an excellent stagehand, completely committed to the theatre like his professional mentor Cheyenne. What is Paul’s big worry early in the book? How do he and Maggie try to solve his problem?

11. At the end of the book, both Maggie and Nick are devastated and grieving, yet they are able to help each other take some first small steps toward coping. Talk about their friendship.


AUDITION FOR MURDER (Maggie Ryan 1967)-- "Very literate, sprinkled with surprises and starring that rarity of rarities -- fully fleshed out characters." -- Los Angeles Daily News
MURDER IS ACADEMIC (Maggie Ryan 1968)-- “treats violation of truth in tandem with assault and rape—true violations of person, mind, and body—and presents a cogent case for the inviolability both of persons and truth.” — The Armchair Detective
MURDER IS PATHOLOGICAL (Maggie Ryan 1969) “The vandal is elusive. When at last the mystery is solved, the conclusion is stunning.” –– The Armchair Detective
MURDER UNRENOVATED (Maggie Ryan 1972) "Terrific characters, funny incidents, genuine suspense, and an absolutely right sense of period and place." -- The Purloined Letter
REHEARSAL FOR MURDER (Maggie Ryan 1973)-- “A tightly woven thriller, warm and beautifully paced with a bittersweet finale. This show must go on!” -- Dorothy Salisbury Davis, MWA Grand Master
MURDER IN THE DOG DAYS (Maggie Ryan 1975)-- "An ingeniously plotted, fair-play, locked-room mystery, one of the best we've encountered." -- The Denver Post
MURDER MISREAD (Maggie Ryan 1977)-- "A tasty blend of irreverence and sincerity... [Maggie] conducts her crime-busting with quiet panache.” –– Entertainment Weekly
GRAVESTONE --- "Chock full of everything a mystery reader loves: fully drawn characters, a strong sense of place, keen pacing." Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine
BLOODSTREAM --- "Carlson's characters are sharp and strong, and the story's unexpected twists and turns will leave you reeling." New Woman
DEATHWIND --- "A genuinely shocking climax. Believable characters and an unusual setting close the deal: this one's a winner." Booklist
CROSSFIRE --- "Deputy Marty Hopkins lands in the middle of an arson case that forces her to confront her own terrifying memories.... A virtuoso climax." Kirkus
RENOWNED BE THY GRAVE --- "The final word on Bridget is that she's full of verve, meets fascinating people, and we hope to encounter her often again." The Drood Review
P.M. Carlsons Krimis in deutscher Übersetzung
Roman Patricije M. Carlson na hrvatskom jeziku