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By Carol on 04-04-11
I have enjoyed most of Simon Brett's British mysteries featuring the Scotch-swilling, self-destructive actor/detective Charles Paris. The series began, I believe, back in the 1970s, and for better or worse, Charles--turned 40 even back then--has aged almost realistically, and thus the series pretty much wound down. The good news is that there is no compelling reason to read the books in a particular order, or to read all of them. The best are very good indeed, and draw on the author's considerable background in British stage and television.
"A Comedian Dies" -- the show-biz double meaning is typical of this series -- centers on the comeback attempt of a brilliant vaudeville comic, Lenny Barber, whose best-known work was with a straight man -- a "feed" -- named Pole. Charles Paris is tapped to replace the long-deceased Pole in "The New Barber and Pole Show," which gets an unexpected chance to make the TV schedule when a rising young comedian who was to headline a new sitcom dies mid-act, electrocuted by his own microphone.
Charles is the first person to realize that the young man's death was actually murder, but remains oblivous to the increasingly obvious culprit. The ending, typical of Simon Brett novels, is sad, satisfying, and morally ambiguous all at the same time.
This entry from 1979 -- early-middle of the series -- is neither the worst nor of the best of these books. I suggest starting with one of the really great ones, either "Murder Unprompted," "An Amateur Corpse," or -- toward the end but perhaps the best of them-- "Sicken and So Die," all available from Audible.
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