Michael Craft’s first novel, Rehearsing, 1993, introduced New York theater director Claire Gray as its protagonist. Later, in 2001, Claire Gray returned as an amateur sleuth in her own series of four mystery novels, set in the Palm Springs area of California.
The series, which ran concurrently with the Mark Manning mysteries, features a limited cross-pollination of characters. The main link between the two series is Thad Quatrain, Mark Manning’s nephew, who moves from Wisconsin to begin college in California, where he studies theater with Claire.
The four installments of the series, beginning with Desert Autumn and ending with Desert Summer, chronicle the first full year of Claire’s new life as a theater professor, far from the bustle of New York. Along the way, she develops a habit of stumbling upon corpses that have met their demise under iffy circumstances.