What bloody man is that? He can report,
As seemeth by his plight, of the revolt
The newest state.
1987 and Charles Paris is back in work, in a local production of The Scottish Play, no less. He’s been promised by his agent that the role could lead to some more parts – only he didn’t anticipate that they would all be in the same play. Doubling up parts is common in the theatre – but the amount that Charles is being asked to do barely gives him time to change costumes.
The company is filled with the usually mixture from the acting world – an RSC Lady Macbeth, determined to get to the root of every single line before the first rehearsal, an old boy of the traditional theatre determined to rub everyone up the wrong way, and Macbeth himself, star of numerous sitcoms and game shows. But needless to say, as Charles is involved in the production, death is waiting in the wings…
My entry in Past Offences 1987 Crimes of the Century – after meeting Simon Brett recently, I thought I’d use this entry in the Charles Paris series, book twelve to be precise. Imagine my delight when the cheap copy that I got via Abebooks turned out to be a first edition in very good nick.
Anyone who’s read a few Charles Paris novels knows the routine – approximately the first half of the book introduces the cast and gives the set-up. Then a body turns up and Charles finds himself investigating the death, often just to keep himself out of trouble.
What is impressive is how Brett makes the formula work time after time. He is a very witty writer, drawing on his own experiences from all over the world of drama (and comedy) and his writing is a joy. Infused with such a delightful line in humour, his writing is guaranteed to bring a smile to the reader’s face.
What can be lacking at times are clues – Charles has a tendency to trip over the murderer, rather than solving the crime, but this time, there’s a logical line in deduction that leads to the villain, which is a nice bonus.
As it’s 1987, there are a couple of dated references to The A-Team and Tizer (for the uniformed, a briefly popular fizzy drink despite tasting like medicine). There is also a completely inappropriate line – “she wouldn’t see a joke if it knocked her over the head and raped her” – that is an indication of the times too, although I find it rather worrying that such a line was acceptable as recently as 1987.
That line aside though, I think this is one of my favourite Charles Paris novels so far. Highly Recommended.