Fun Fix for the Missing Film Festival

If you watched the premiere of “Hightown,” the new crime drama set in Provincetown on Starz, you saw about 30 seconds of an elaborately recreated Carnival parade, complete with big float and big hair. Sadly, this will probably be the only glimpse of a Carnival parade you will get in 2020. Because of Covid-19, of course, most of Provincetown’s legendary theme weeks have been cancelled, or scaled back to the minimum. There will be no Portuguese Festival, only a Blessing of the Fleet. Provincetown Bear Week 2020 has been cancelled. The Carnival parade permit has been rescinded. And the Provincetown International Film Festival has been cancelled.

Into this gap, Jeannette de Beauvoir brings the latest in her wonderful series of Provincetown “theme week” mysteries, The Matinee Murders. If you are missing the Provincetown Film Festival, especially the glam parties and the evanescent feel of Hollywood insiderdom, then this book is your fix until 2021.

De Beauvoir’s protagonist, Sydney Riley, is the wedding planner for the fictional Race Point Inn, an amalgam of several of the most prominent inns on Commercial Street. This June, Sydney is in charge of the wedding of the year. Big-time movie star Brett Falcone is scheduled to receive a special award at the Provincetown Film Festival, and he’s using the opportunity to marry his boyfriend, Hollywood screenwriter Justin Braden, in Provincetown. Oh, and by the way, this is their coming-out. Reporters, film buffs, and star-struck fans are swarming around the Festival and the Inn.

Naturally, things don’t go smoothly. The night before the wedding, the wedding party is dining at Ross’ Grill in Whaler’s Wharf, when Sydney discovers a corpse in the employee’s bathroom. Who would want to kill Caroline Cooper, co-producer of Brett’s latest film, the aptly named “Revenge”? Why is Sydney’s boss, Mike, so concerned about the wedding guest list? Are Brett and Justin committing career suicide or just getting married? Will Sydney ever get an autographed picture of Brett for her demanding mother? Questions abound. While answering these questions, de Beauvoir constructs an excellent fair-play whodunit, with a nifty ending that I never guessed.

One of the joys of this series is the way de Beauvoir uses her intimate knowledge of Provincetown to give a detailed picture of town life for year-rounders, as well as second-home owners and visitors. Sydney’s best friend is Mirela, a Bulgarian immigant who made it big as a talented artist. Thus de Beauvoir gives a nod to Bulgarian summer workers and Provincetown’s art community, as well as the hospitality industry represented by Sydney and her cohorts at the Inn. We meet Ben DeRuyter, the real-life owner of Whaler’s Wharf, who gives Sydney a tour of the hidden nooks and crannies there. In fact, Whaler’s Wharf is so important it’s practically a character in the novel. And, as usual, the wedding is officiated by Vernon Porter in persona as Lady Di, something perhaps only Provincetonians can fully appreciate.

All in all, this is a welcome blast of Provincetown as it used to be, only last summer. If you’re still feeling nostalgic for pre-Covid-19 Provincetown, there are more of de Beauvoir’s “theme week” mysteries, including Death of a Bear, Murder at Fantasia Fairand A Killer Carnival. The Matinee Murders is available June 1 from Provincetown’s own Homeport Press. By then, the Provincetown Library will be offering curbside pickup of books you request online or by phone, followed by the Wellfleet Library on June 3. Both East End Books (508-413-9059) and the Provincetown Bookshop (508-487-0964) are offering curbside pick-up or delivery of books you order by phone. If that doesn’t work, go to Indiebound.org to find an independent bookstore to call or order online from. As Jeannette herself says, “We’ll read through this.”