MARCH 1999 | VOL. 3, NO. 3

Simon Brett's "Dead Room Farce"


LAST | Lindsey Davis' "A Dying Light in Corduba"


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Dead Room Farce __ Dead Room Farce
_________ Simon Brett

by Simon Brett

US: St Martin's Press, ISBN 0312192517, price $20.95 USD, price through $14.67 USD.

UK: Vista Paperbacks, ISBN 0575602643, price 5.99 GBP.


Simon Brett has been keeping us amused with Charles Paris mysteries for a couple of decades now, but the stories remain fresh and he constantly finds new ways to dig at the precious world of the theater - and don't you just know that the majority of those parodied would refer to it as "the theat-ah".

It's a world of incompetent agents - why he hasn't ditched Maurice Skellern years ago is a mystery in itself - and producers who have left the BBC either to pursue new directions in their creative work, or because they were given the bum's rush, depending on whose story you believe. This time poor Charles - still unable to keep a relationship in good repair, terminally weak-willed and spending too much time romancing a bottle - has landed a part in a tour of a farce before it goes to the West End. Unusually for one of Mr Brett's tales, we are treated to chunks of the script of "Not on your wife!" which makes it plain that this is not a play to ignore lightly. A determined effort should be made to avoid seeing it at all costs.

Charles has finally obtained his own telephone, so no longer do we have those delicious notes from his Swedish co-tenants pushed under his door. He even has an answering machine, so there is a chance that he may finally get his life organized. However, it is a slim chance. Like the best friend whom you won't desert, but who makes you wince from time to time, Charles staggers through life from one self-made crisis to another, the one constant being that you know he will finally do the wrong thing and make things worse for himself.

In the present case, an old friend who is also too fond of the bottle is found dead in a recording studio. Charles realizes that this was not an accident, and that one of the theater company he is with must be the killer. He also knows that the dead man knew a few secrets from twenty years before, and was talking about writing an autobiography which would spill the beans. Attracted by the widow, who goads him into going without booze for prolonged periods - whole weekends, would you believe - Charles sets out to discover the secret which led to the death. I can promise you that even if you realise what the secret is, the discovery of whose secret it is may surprise you.

The Charles Paris books are fairly slim (around 200 pages), but there's a good weekend's reading here, and I enjoyed this one as much as I did its predecessors. A good book to sit down with in the company of the bottle of wine Charles shouldn't be allowing himself.

GRAHAM BRACK , a pharmacist by day, is the staff book reviewer for Renaissance Online Magazine. He lives in Cornwall, England.

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