cover image Death Off Stage

Death Off Stage

Richard Grayson. St. Martin's Press, $16.95 (189pp) ISBN 978-0-312-06951-3

Inspector Jean-Paul Gautier is back for a ninth appearance in Grayson's ( Death on the Cards ) exquisite, smartly paced whodunit set in turn-of-the-century Paris. Gautier's attention is diverted from the murder of a retarded infant to the assault on stern Judge Theo Prudhomme by the director of the visiting Russian Dashkova Ballet Company, who charges that the judge was making advances to his leading male dancer. After Gautier's long-term affair with the company's patroness, jealousies among Dashkova dancers and the theft of a Scottish nobleman's guns are revealed, Prudhomme is found dead, presumably by his own hand, in a seedy hotel. His death is followed by the murder of a Dashkova prima ballerina, perhaps by her rival in the company, on the night of an important performance. Next, Gautier's lover is killed by a bullet intended for him. The assailant is connected to both the theft of the guns and Prudhomme's death, and then, in a resolution distinguished by drama and surprising disclosures, to the deaths of the baby and the ballerina. Grayson delivers elegant writing, atmospheric settings, good ballet background, an inventive plot and characters with heart and style. (Apr.)