It’s pantomime season at Eastbourne and sometime actor, sometime sleuth Charles Paris has got a part in Cinderella as one of the Broker’s Men, partnered with the thunderous acting talents of an ex-boxer. The remaining cast is full of soap stars and pantomime veterans, except for the star draw – Kenny Polizzi, star of the US sitcom The Dwight House.
Charles and Kenny soon hit it off, but it seems Kenny has plenty of baggage, from a stalker to an angry ex-wife to a long-standing problem with addiction. And presumably, if not one of those, the reason why Charles finds Kenny under the pier with a bullet hole in the middle of his forehead…
Following on from A Decent Interval, Simon Brett seems to have properly returned to Charles Paris with the second book in two years. There’s another one planned as well so that will make twenty in total – the early ones are all available as ebooks for a decent price, by the way.
Followers of Charles will know what to expect here, and Brett delivers the goods. For once, Charles gets a mildly decent part (although dead man’s shoes has something to do with it) although the reviews are as expected. Needless to say, he also sticks his nose into investigating the murder and it’s a nicely complex case with a clever twist. In A Decent Interval, it seemed as if the method of finding the murderer involved going through the cast, ticking them off one by one, until the killer was the last man standing. It comes as a pleasant surprise to find that there are members of the cast that have absolutely nothing to do with the case at all, rather than everyone revealing some long-forgotten link to the victim. Having said that, the truth is complex enough for the armchair sleuth to be caught out.
Newcomers to the series might find themselves wondering why exactly Charles bothers to investigate the crime – he admits that he doesn’t exactly have excellent sleuthing abilities and his method of deduction seems to involve talking to people until he finds a witness/someone confesses/someone tries to kill him. Still not sure myself, to be honest, but as ever, Simon Brett is an entertaining storyteller – best not to think about it really.
This isn’t as strong as A Decent Interval – there’s a distraction towards the end that’s a bit of a cheat, imho, and Brett isn’t the strongest at providing actual clues for the reader (not that Charles would notice them anyway), but it’s a fun read and well worth checking out, especially if you’re already a fan of the series. Recommended.
Thanks to Severn House for providing this review copy.