Die Laughing

Steve Allen, Author
Steve Allen, Author Kensington Publishing Corporation $21 (288p) ISBN 978-1-57566-241-1
Reviewed on: 12/29/1997
Release date: 01/01/1998
Allen reins in the rampant self-absorbtion that ruined Wake Up to Murder (1996) but still comes up with a less than riveting effort in his latest mystery starring his fictional self as sleuth. Called to the bedside of dying octogenarian comedian Benny Hartman, Allen is cornered into agreeing to emcee an extravagant awards show funded by, and in honor of, the dying comic. But Hartman's Beverly Hills death and funeral involve Allen and his wife, Jayne Meadows, in a morass of murder and mysteries. Is Benny really dead? Why is another old comedian murdered? And why does each new development seem to drag the Allens deeper into trouble. Allen hauls out lots of cliche characters and situations (the faithful butler, the bastard son, the bimbo wife, the secret life, the altered will) and fails to invest them with enough originality to make them work. Instead, the Allens ineptly bumble along over a period of months between Hartman's death and the planned awards show, while the LAPD inexplicably makes no progress whatsoever. After a series of plot twists more jerky than sharp, Allen the character plots the greatest detective summation of all before the largest audience imaginable. It is not surprising that the end is more pratfalls than fireworks. (Jan.)
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