cover image Dead Room Farce

Dead Room Farce

Simon Brett. Minotaur Books, $20.95 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-312-19251-8

Not On Your Wife! is a poor excuse for a stage comedy, all dropped trousers and double entendres. But then Charles Paris (Sicken and So Die, 1997) is a poor excuse for an actor--and husband, father and lover. Yet he's proved to be an enduring amateur sleuth, whose cases take place during his sporadic moments of gainful employment. This latest dire dramatic vehicle is debuting in Bath, and Charles, between boozing bouts with his beloved Bells whiskey and romantic bouts with Cookie Stone, an aging actress unaccountably smitten with him, has landed a nice gig on the side reading books on tape. Mark Lear is in charge of the recording facility. He's a former BBC man and a bigger and more bitter drunk than Charles. His lover, Lisa Wilson, is concerned. Charles fancies Lisa more than poor Cookie and gets a rare chance to act chivalrous when Mark dies and all the signs (especially a locked sound room as the likely place of death) point to foul play. Brett is no stranger to the dramatic arts; his A Shock to the System was a Michael Caine movie, and he scripted a popular sitcom on British television. His characters are all priceless--haughty ham actors, melodramatic drunks, driven company hacks. The play itself is trite and bawdy and rendered by the author with leering panache. Charles is once again in for bloody awful reviews, but he does find the killer after discovering that Mark once supplemented his wages with the manufacture of gay audiotapes that starred a few names familiar to Charles. Brett, who remains better known on his own side of the pond, is a master of breezy, boozy buffoonery. (Sept.)