2nd March 2020. 3 stars.
Having already read the first book in Simon Brett’s Fetherington series, I was looking forward to some stylish writing and his trademark observational and social comments. These were delivered by fading actor, Charles Paris, a thespian who’s drawn into a murder investigation when a friend and occasional lover finds herself in hot water.
The characters are sharply drawn and evoked, offering an insight into the world of theatre in 1973, when power cuts and the three-day week were wreaking havoc with people’s lives. The story moves along at a gentle pace until the fairly innocuous starts to become a murky and complicated mystery involving impresario Marius Steen. It leads to an exciting climax and an almost Poirot-like unravelling of the motives and actions that led to the murder.
While I enjoy Simon Brett’s style of writing and narrative, I struggled to connect or empathise with Charles Paris, who seemed shallow and self-absorbed. Many of the other key players weren’t much better. Maybe this is a reflection of the theatrical world when actors fade, but it meant the story didn’t make an impact on me like some of the author’s other books have.
There’s still much to admire in the writing, plot and acerbic humour. Charles Paris may well grow on me as the series progresses through its 20 books. Fans of his writing may well encourage me reserve judgement until I’ve read the next in the series, which I may well do.
Who killed Marcus Steen, the theatrical tycoon with a fortune to leave to his young mistress Jacqui? And who killed Bill Sweet, the shady blackmailer with a supply of compromising photographs? Charles Paris, a middle-aged actor addicted to booze and women, decides to investigate by assuming a variety of roles, among them that of the mythical Detective Sergeant McWhirter. But, as Paris is about to discover only too painfully, impersonating a police officer is never a good idea.