Charles Paris doesn’t get that much theatrical work, and it rarely seeks him out. So he’s a little surprised when Justin Grover, renowned actor of stage and screen, asks him to join the cast of The Habit Of Faith, a new West End production, despite only knowing Grover from a brief run as Rosencrantz to his Guildenstern (or possibly the other way round). Yes, the part is just The Monk Who Listened To The Other Monks Who Maundered On In Long Speeches About Their Own Internal Conflicts, but work is work, and the pay is pretty good.
Charles also sees this an opportunity to reconnect with his wife, Frances, but she has one condition – stop drinking. That actually isn’t going too badly – a lot of his fellow cast members are on the wagon too – but when the lead actress is found dead after “falling down the stairs”, Charles finds himself convinced that she was murdered. But can he find the killer, avoid the demon drink and deliver his traditional adequate performance six nights a week?
Bit of a preview-review this one, as it’s not out until the end of the month, but I read my review copy a little early due to work pressures meaning that I needed an easy read. And Simon Brett is the expert at producing comfortable, easy reads. Well, this may be an easy read, but there are certainly uncomfortable moments in this one.
Primarily, Brett decides to tackle the dubious behaviour of some actors, amid rumours of Justin Grover’s past behaviour. While we don’t fully go into Operation Yewtree territory here, it’s a dark undercurrent that to me sat a little uncomfortably here. The Charles Paris books have always been fairly light reads, but this seemed to be a lot darker, both with this plot point and with finally tackling Charles’ alcoholism.
It’s a decent tale, entertaining and witty when not being dark, although it’s not particularly well-clued. The conclusion of the mystery has a surprising touch of realism to the fate of the villain, which made a pleasant change of pace.
Fans of the series will find plenty to enjoy here – but I wonder if they will be as divided as me when they reach the final page. Also, you’ve got to wonder about the choice of name for Justin Grover, given that there is a star of stage and screen with a remarkably similar name… Probably not the book that will convert new fans to the series, but long term readers will be pleased to see Charles back in action again. Worth A Look.
A Deadly Habit is out on May 31st 2018. Many thanks to the publishers for the review copy.
More Charles Paris Reviews:
1: Cast, In Order Of Disappearance (1975)
2: So Much Blood (1976)
3: Star Trap (1977)
12: What Bloody Man Is That? (1987)
16: Sicken And So Die (1995)
18: A Decent Interval (2013)
19: The Cinderella Killer (2014)
20: A Deadly Habit (2018)