Mood Indigo is Ed Ifkovic’s ninth installment in the series featuring the famed novelist and playwright Edna Ferber and her coterie of New York society friends, most importantly Noel Coward. In Mood Indigo, Ifkovic wonders what might happen to true love if the world is filled with Iagos. Edna first meets Belinda and Dougie, our Desdemona and Othello, as Noel Coward’s Christmas party. They are obnoxiously loud and with far too many public displays of affection. Glowering onlookers mention that Belinda is a fortune to fortune gold digger and sure enough there is an ugly confrontation with a former beau.
Edna might not care so much, but she comes to see Belinda perform and realizes she has a real talent. She glimpses moments of emotional honesty in Belinda’s face, realizing that she might actually love Dougie and be exhausted by his constant insecurities and jealousy. Dougie is a poor excuse for an Othello though. He’s a child of privilege and pampering who at thirty-five is still dandled on his mother’s knee. He’s never had to grow up and is grasping and demanding as a child. Complicating the plot, Dougie’s mother is a snob, though she denies it, and wants Belinda gone. Then there is Belinda’s brother, her Svengali who wants his own portion of her.
When she is murdered, Dougie is the obvious suspect, but Edna can certainly imagine a range of other suspects. When Dougie is murdered, it’s suddenly more complicated. Was it a simple robbery as the police think, which would allow them to keep Dougie in the frame for Belinda? Or was it revenge by someone who thinks Dougie killed Belinda? Or did Dougie’s killer also kill Belinda? Well, there’s no one better suited to find out than Edna Ferber.
This is the first I have read in this series and was not put off by it being out of order. I will likely read more in the series. There’s a wry wit I enjoy and all the name-dropping and cameos are fun. Of course, if you’re Edna Ferber, you’re not name-dropping, you’re the name that gets dropped, but still the rich and famous of the Jazz Age pass through with quips and little character portraits that are a delight.
The conflict and the murder in this book hang on the idea that men “own” women. The “If I can’t have her, no one can” idea permeates this book. It simmers with jealousy, romantic and professional. It’s not Ifkovic’s fault that systemic misogyny persuades men that only they have romantic agency, that a woman must reciprocate a man’s love. That is on us, not the author nor the characters. Still, it’s sad reading this book about an era nearly a century past and realizing how little we have progressed.
I received an e-galley of Mood Indigo from the publisher through NetGalley.