Charles Paris, jobbing actor extraordinaire is preparing for a role as a grandfather, staying with his estranged wife Frances while his daughter, Juliet, is waiting for a new arrival. His luck seems to be in, as he lands a job at the BBC Radio Drama department, basically recording anything that comes along. Of course, one thing that comes along is a corpse…
Andrea Gower, the studio manager, has been making some discrete inquiries about something that has peaked her interest. Possibly not discrete enough of course, as she is found in her booth having cut both of her wrists. As ever, Charles is first on the scene and to his eyes, something seems very wrong. It’s hard enough to cut one of your wrists – could anyone simultaneously cut both? He’s soon on the trail of a murderer – one who’s willing to strike again if necessary…
Yes, I cheated. I figured this was going to be a slow month, so I downloaded, on Sergio’s recommendation, one of BBC Radio 4’s Charles Paris mysteries, starring Bill Nighy as Charles.
Now it must be said that I’m not the best-read fan of Charles – of his nineteen literary outings, I’ve read a grand total of four – but there’s one obvious difference here. In the books, the implication is that he’s a pretty poor actor, but here he’s apparently had good reviews for a dreadful sounding one man play at the Edinburgh festival and has little trouble walking into his new job (worth noting that this isn’t part of the plot of the book, apparently).
He also has a reason for once to investigate the murder – admittedly, it’s to help out a girl that he’s fallen for – and as the police are strangely invisible (not a plot point, they’re simply not interested in an obvious murder), it falls to Charles to join the dots.
The performances are uniformly good, with Nighy nicely channelling Charles’s line in humour, and the adapter does a good job of making the family scenes (which have nothing to do with the mystery) entertaining where they could easily have been tiresome. There are a couple of good jokes in the sound effects department that wouldn’t work on paper, and the brief musical interludes from the seventies work well too.
Plotwise, there are things that resemble clues, and for once Charles seems to work it out, rather than pester everyone until someone confesses. For this listener, the murderer stood out like a sore thumb as soon as they appeared but that might just be me.
All in all, a pleasant way of passing a couple of hours. Not the most taxing mystery but trundles along nicely with a lot of smiles along the way. Recommended.
NB If you want to read this, then the most recent ebook version has the wrong title – it uses Mike instead of Mic which was enough to confuse the Amazon search engine. Be warned.