The Noel Coward Murder Case

George Baxt, Author St. Martin's Press $17.95 (199p) ISBN 978-0-312-08272-7
``Fame is so exhausting,'' laments this mystery's eponymous hero--but not as as enervating, unfortunately, as reading this latest offering from Baxt ( A Queer Kind of Death ). From the discovery of a corpse in a Shanghai river to a (surprisingly tame) conflagration in a New York City boite, the book's not-very-mysterious elements are rudimentarily handled. ``A murder has been committed and I intend to conduct a very thorough investigation,'' announces Det. Jacob Singer. Characters evidence little individuality, while dialogue and exposition alike are lined out with no trace of subtlety. Everything is told rather than shown (``Noel looked world-weary as usual'') and corny one-liners are plopped into scenes regardless of suitability. Moreover, Baxt should consider joining Namedroppers Anonymous: his scattershot celebrity mentions--in an apparent attempt to imbue his narrative with a behind-the-scenes period atmosphere--quickly prove tedious. The unkindest cut of all, however, is Baxt's depiction of Coward himself: this justly celebrated bon vivant, master of the witty riposte, is here reduced to a fatuous, insipid boor. Readers would be better entertained curling up with a cozy British whodunit while listening to a Coward recording. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
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