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Sintesi dell'editore

Charles Paris, middle-aged actor turned amateur sleuth, is vacationing at a small English seaside town. Irresistibly drawn to anything theatrical, Charles seeks entertainment at the local music hall and endures a series of not-so-wonderful vaudeville acts in the hope that the man given star billing will be worth watching. This performer, Bill Peaky, comes on stage with his electric guitar, grasps the microphone, and drops dead, due to faulty wiring of the stage equipment.

It looks like an accident, but Charles is not so sure and starts to find out more about the people in the other acts on the bill: Janine, the pretty dancer who disappears; Miffy Turtle, Peaky's manager, a little too sharply dressed and too sharp altogether; Chox Morton, seedy and unduly nervous, manager of another act; Lennie Barber, one-time star comedian trying to make a comeback. The more Charles investigates, the more suspects turn up.

©1979 Simon Brett (P)1993 Blackstone Audiobooks

"Typical Brett: Well-realized characters and urbane dialogue...a pronounced touch of irony.' (The New York Times Book Review)

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  • Generale
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Carol
  • 04/04/2011

Stage-Struck Mystery

I have enjoyed most of Simon Brett's British mysteries featuring the Scotch-swilling, self-destructive actor/detective Charles Paris. The series began, I believe, back in the 1970s, and for better or worse, Charles--turned 40 even back then--has aged almost realistically, and thus the series pretty much wound down. The good news is that there is no compelling reason to read the books in a particular order, or to read all of them. The best are very good indeed, and draw on the author's considerable background in British stage and television.

"A Comedian Dies" -- the show-biz double meaning is typical of this series -- centers on the comeback attempt of a brilliant vaudeville comic, Lenny Barber, whose best-known work was with a straight man -- a "feed" -- named Pole. Charles Paris is tapped to replace the long-deceased Pole in "The New Barber and Pole Show," which gets an unexpected chance to make the TV schedule when a rising young comedian who was to headline a new sitcom dies mid-act, electrocuted by his own microphone.

Charles is the first person to realize that the young man's death was actually murder, but remains oblivous to the increasingly obvious culprit. The ending, typical of Simon Brett novels, is sad, satisfying, and morally ambiguous all at the same time.

This entry from 1979 -- early-middle of the series -- is neither the worst nor of the best of these books. I suggest starting with one of the really great ones, either "Murder Unprompted," "An Amateur Corpse," or -- toward the end but perhaps the best of them-- "Sicken and So Die," all available from Audible.

12 persone l'hanno trovata utile

  • Generale
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Lettura
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Storia
    4 out of 5 stars
  • John
  • 25/10/2020

Sheer Enjoyment, with One Reservation.

Granted, other fictional sleuths (Lord Peter Wimsey, for example) start their investigations out of idle curiosity. Charles Paris even ends up, Wimsey-like, regretting that he’d ever gotten involved. But his unofficial solo effort strikes me as presumption. Yes, I enjoyed this story immensely and, without that presumption, there would have been no story. But at least Lord Peter has Parker at Scotland Yard who consults him; Miss Marple always has a member of the force standing by (whether they want her or not); each sleuth has a sort of semi-official status. But not Paris. In pursuance of his self-appointed task, he even becomes a Peeping Tom. Add to this his admission that he believes in no ultimate values of right and wrong, and it begins to look like the real mystery here is why he ever undertook to solve this mystery.

And yet, in spite of that retrospective snag, I enjoyed the dickens out of this book. Brett casts a wryly humorous, thoroughly jaundiced eye on so much of what constituted Modernity in 1979; all the superficiality of TV that has since metastasized into the superficiality of Facebook. Getting on in years myself, I couldn’t help liking Lenny Barber, the gifted, once-famous comic who sees himself overhauled by younger, less-gifted newcomers whose main aim is cash, not craft. My empathy went so deep that the moral ambiguity of the ending struck me as a touching mercy--probably because the investigation wasn't official.

The writing is witty, urbane, with an internal bounce that keeps the listener interested in whatever happens next—even lunch at a “concept” restaurant. And Frederick Davidson knows exactly how to keep all that urbane wit bouncing along. He remains my beau ideal of a reader, for almost every type of audiobook.

5 persone l'hanno trovata utile