- Published by Severn House in 2013
- ISBN 978-1-78029-044-7
- 202 pages
- library book
- #18 in the Charles Paris series
After a long period of 'resting', life is looking up for Charles Paris, who has been cast as the Ghost of Hamlet's Father and First Gravedigger in a new production of Hamlet. But rehearsals are fraught. Ophelia is played by Katrina Selsey, who won the role through a television talent show. Hamlet himself is also played by a reality TV contestant, Jared Root - and the two young stars have rather different views of celebrity and the theatre than the more experienced members of the cast.
But when the company reach the first staging post of their tour, the Grand Theatre Marlborough, matters get more serious, with one member of the company seriously injured in what appears to be an accident, and another dead. Once again, Charles Paris is forced to don the mantle of amateur detective to get to the bottom of the mystery.
It has been a decent interval since readers last had the chance to meet up with dipsomaniac actor Charles Paris. This is #18 in the series which began in 1975 with CAST IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE. Our last outing was DEAD ROOM FARCE in 1997
Nothing much has changed in Charles' life including Charles himself who doesn't seem to have aged much. He is still in and out of work, but probably much more out than in. His agent Maurice Skellern hasn't contacted him for 8 months, he hasn't talked to his estranged wife Frances for nearly five months, and he seems to have been living on Bell's Whisky. Maurice contacts him for some small part work for a documentary on the English Civil War and then he lands a job in a production of Hamlet. The main players are winners of a singing star contest.
The mystery action takes off when would-be pop star Jared Root (Hamlet) is felled by some stage scenery, and shortly after that there is what seems to be a murder.
There's an undercurrent of commentary in this novel about the state of the theatre, the difficulty of getting good plays into London's West End in the face of reality and talent shows which attract much younger audiences and encourage more audience participation. Charles has remained a bit of a Luddite as far as internet technology and social networking goes but even he comes to understand the power of social media like Twitter in sparking interest in live performances where fans can see their idols perform. The other side of the coin of course is the accountancy that drives the theatre world - if you can't make a profit, it is not viable.
Though written in the third person, we see the world and the mystery through Charles Paris's aging eyes, although to be quite honest he doesn't seemed to have aged much since earlier books. There's a peculiar humour in these novels provided particularly by review comments about Charles' performances on stage. While Charles Paris fans will be glad of this outing, I don't think it is as good as the series at its height. Simon Brett has used a tried and trusted formula to create a very readable cozy.
My rating: 4.2
Other reviews - the first three are from the Fethering series
BLOOD AT THE BOOKIES
THE POISONING IN THE PUB
4.4, THE SHOOTING IN THE SHOP
4.3, SO MUCH BLOOD - a Charles Paris novel
The Charles Paris series (Fantastic Fiction)
1. Cast in Order of Disappearance (1975)
2. So Much Blood (1976)
3. Star Trap (1977)
4. An Amateur Corpse (1978)
5. A Comedian Dies (1979)
6. The Dead Side of the Mike (1980)
7. Situation Tragedy (1981)
8. Murder Unprompted (1982)
9. Murder in the Title (1983)
10. Not Dead, Only Resting (1984)
11. Dead Giveaway (1985)
12. What Bloody Man is That (1987)
13. A Series of Murders (1989)
14. Corporate Bodies (1991)
15. A Reconstructed Corpse (1993)
16. Sicken and So Die (1995)
17. Dead Room Farce (1997)
18. A Decent Interval (2013)