Quick Curtain by Alan Melville

It’s Opening Night for the great Douglas B Douglas’ new musical, Blue Music, and things are expected to go very well indeed. He has a hit on his hands already – unless something unfortunate happens, like, say, one of the actors shooting another dead at the end of Act One in full view of the audience. When the shooter then hangs himself in his dressing room, it would seem to be an open and shut case.

Luckily Inspector Wilson is in the audience and it rapidly becomes clear to him that things are far from over. Wilson, along with his journalist son, are soon hot on the case – but things are going to become far more complicated than they imagined.

Ah, humour. It’s a funny thing. It’s also a divisive thing. What some people find hilarious leaves other people cold, and vice versa. There are some things that most people agree on – Fawlty Towers, Father Ted, etc – but there are other classic comedies that I’ve never really got – Seinfeld, for example. And let’s not get into the popular situation comedy shows that have proliferated prime-time BBC over the years – how exactly did The Green Green Grass, for example, manage four series? People clearly found it funny – but the half hour I spent at my parents’ house when it was on seemed like an eternity…

Oh, my point? This is a humorous book – witty in fact. It appears in Martin Edwards’ The Story Of Classic Crime in 100 Books under Making Fun Of Murder alongside the excellent Case For Three Detectives and the entertaining, if a little over-rated, The Moving Toyshop. And applying the “no one finds everything funny” rule, it would seem to imply that I didn’t find Quick Curtain remotely amusing. And, I’m afraid, you’d be right.

I’m really disappointed. I enjoyed Death Of Anton by the same author, also from the British Library range, it was great fun. So I had high expectations of this one. But the problem is the wit. It’s incessant and clearly the author is enjoying himself, in part being able to take several shots at the theatre industry.  But the non-stop “cleverness” of the humour rapidly became wearing to me.

The more’s the pity, as there’s some clever and enjoyable plotting hiding underneath the humour, with an interesting denouement, an almost tragic one if it had been written in a different style. But, for me, the humour did rather spoil things.

But, as I said, humour is such an individual thing. Take a look at the sample on Amazon and see what you think. If the humour is to your taste, then this is Highly Recommended. But if not, take a look at Death Of Anton instead…


  1. This was the first book I reviewed for my blog, so it’s always going to be a special one for me. The humour did work for me in this one, but I completely agree that Death of Anton is a superior read.


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