Loved it! 😍
A good murder mystery with great characters, suspense, danger, romance, and a touch of humor.
This is the fourth Tony Harrington novel by Joseph LeValley, but it’s the first one I’ve read. It is definitely a standalone.
The small town of Orney, Iowa, was the site of the movie Murder Beyond Them directed by the famous Ramesh Bhatt and based on the novel by Charles Harrington. Tony Harrington, the son of Charles, was a reporter who lived in Orney and the reason that the movie was being shot there.
Soon after the shooting of the movie began, one of the female movie stars was murdered, and there was a lot of convincing evidence that Charles committed the murder. When all of the evidence was presented, I couldn’t imagine how he couldn’t be guilty. On the other hand, it was so obvious, I figured there had to be more to it. Tony felt the same way. He wanted to believe that his dad was innocent, but how could he? Then again, Tony knew that as a writer of murder mysteries, Charles wasn’t stupid enough to leave so much evidence behind. Maybe he was framed? But how?
Other than the murder, there was a lot going on in Performing Murder. Not only did Tony have the murder to investigate as a reporter and to help his dad, he had a blossoming relationship with Darcy, the other female lead from the movie. Tony’s best friend, Doug, another reporter, got shot. Tony was knocked out by someone they thought was paparazzi but obviously wasn’t. And that’s just some of what was going on! Once I got into the book, there was so much happening that it was difficult to put down.
The small-town feel was genuine. Everyone knew everyone else’s business. A good example of this, and something that tickled me, was when Tony got some information from Davis, a good friend of his who worked in law enforcement. Tony didn’t want to get his friend in trouble, so as a courtesy, he called the sheriff to get the information from him. The sheriff had left a note with his secretary to tell him that whatever Davis had told him was fine.
The author’s writing flows well. The book is exciting, and the characters are believable. I like that they’re not just good or bad; the good guys have flaws, and the bad guys have good qualities.
I recommend Performing Murder for anyone who likes a good murder mystery. It has suspense, danger, romance, and a touch of humor.
- Reviewed by Dawn Heslin for Reedsy
"'Hear ye, hear ye. The District Court of the State of Iowa is now in session, Judge Arnold Schroeder presiding.' Tony groaned. Schroeder was not a man known to be kind to accused murderers."
This the fourth novel in author LeValley's series featuring small-town Iowa reporter Tony Harrington. In this narrative, Hollywood arrives to film a movie, and even more skullduggery occurs beyond the cameras than in front of them. Before long, the young newspaperman is in the middle of a murder investigation that is not part of the script the Californians have arrived to shoot.
Tony's father, Charles, is a successful novelist and screenwriter. The elder Harrington has talked the director of the film into using his son's hamlet as the key location. As the Iowans begin to mingle with the folks from La La Land, unscripted scenes begin to play out. A cast member is murdered, and Tony's father is charged with the crime. An enraged lover of the deceased tries to save everyone the time and expense of a trial by shooting the primary suspect. Tony falls head over heels for one of the actresses and tries to come to grips with their passionate relationship while he's doing everything humanly possible to prove his dad's innocence. One revelation follows another as Tony is soon in danger of being written out of this murder mystery with extreme prejudice.
LeValley is a skilled storyteller who keeps his tale as credible as it is intriguing. His cast of continuing characters—Tony's friends, family, and coworkers—all come across as real people. He provides sufficient backstory for key members of the movie crew to make them feel authentic as well. LeValley's prose and dialogue are easy on the eye and the ear. His physical action is both suspenseful and intense without being overly brutal. In short, LeValley's yarn is rated "E" for entertaining."
- U.S. Review of Books––Recommended - Review by Joe Kilgore
"A movie production comes to the small rural Iowa town of Orney, bringing with it a large cast of Hollywood actors, producers, and cameras. The town's excitement builds, in Performing Murder; but the shoot turns lethal when a dead body is discovered floating in the country club swimming pool, further challenging the community with unwelcome change.
Tony Harrington (a writer for the Orney Town Crier, one of the smallest daily newspapers in the Midwest) was one of the community members most excited about the production. Ironically, a loved one becomes a murder suspect, and Tony is drawn to investigate. After all, it was he who is at least partially responsible for Hollywood's choice of Orney as a shoot location.
What he uncovers is a hornet's nest of secrets and issues that go far beyond perp and victim to strike at the heart of a town Tony had thought staid and straightforward, introducing questions and threats that rock the foundations of his world.
Joseph LeValley does an outstanding job of involving readers in this blossoming mystery, from the opening racy scenes in which a lovemaking couple stumble upon the body in the pool to Tony's love for his small town and his well-meaning efforts to see it (and his career as a newspaper reporter) prosper.
Tony has stars in his eyes about all the possibilities, at first, but events quickly turn into something more sinister. LeValley brings both the intrigue and Tony's maturity process to life in a series of encounters that challenge Tony and readers to uncover the underlying influences for not just murder, but choosing evil over good.
Tony's coming of age and relationships are nicely described. They grow and change during the course of his interactions, lending the whodunit component a perfect combination of intrigue and psychological depth. This will especially delight suspense story readers seeking more than a simple investigative procedural alone.
Even when Tony's guesses prove correct, the case is not resolved. Instead, it takes another twist of danger that places Tony in the position of being responsible for another's life or death.
From the undercurrents and forces that affect this small town from within and outside to Tony's growth process of becoming more savvy and effective, LeValley creates a compelling read, in Performing Murder, that captivates on many different levels."
- Midwest Book Reviews––Recommended - Diane C. Donovan, Senior Reviewer