International Writers Magazine:
by Linda Regan
(Crème de la Crime, £7.99)
Daniel Alves review
feuds, unsolved hatreds, and more than enough lies to twist the
plot into a maze. This detective novel boasts all the themes that
darken in the eye of betrayal; sex, money, and murder.
A theatre hangs
on the metaphorical edge of a cliff, ready to fall into bankruptcy
at any moment. Michael Hogan, the owner of it all, might well have
been able to survive the green drought if he didnt have so
many hidden debts to pay on the side, and on the
side is a very important theme throughout the novel.
All the cast know each other, even the new ones, but instead of
the utopian village where everyone is each others best friend,
most of the cast hate each other. Much of them are or have been
family at one point, which only makes later developments that much
more disturbing. The drama business is described as a business of
jealousy, at least according to the main star Barbara
Denis, but motives are only one part of the puzzle for Detective
Inspector Paul Banham.
The first death was designed to look like an accident, but the keen sensed
detective and his team take up the pessimistic view and stick around to
prove otherwise. A second death, a coarse gash to the throat, erases any
doubt from the teams mind that this is murder and strikes fear into
the heart of the cast. However, "the panto is sold out and the show
must go on" regardless of how many corpses end up littering the stage.
The novel is very modern and well written, constantly challenging our
assumptions of who did what all the way to the end of the book. From start
to finish, a carrot is dangled at the end of a stick, and the only way
to bite is to carry on reading. Even the most bravado meat-eaters will
be tempted. For every complication Banham comes across, another few arise
from it, and these continue to multiply as well. As more people die, it
would be expected that a shorter list would make the killer easier to
identify, but as the personality of all the cast clashes and rages even
in the middle of acts in front of a paying audience, we are left wondering
which characters would not be capable of murder.
As if multiple murder cases on the same stage are not enough, Banham also
has problems of his own to resolve, but time is ticking and he must get
his priorities straight. The wide array of characters involved, each with
their own agenda and secrets, make this novel feel eerily real. Each of
them are a story in themselves, but its up to us to do our own detective
work and string the pieces of their past together as we are given them.
What precious morsels of information we are given suggest that there might
be more than just a little competitiveness and animosity between the actors,
but theyve already been contracted to work together on stage. The
lights are on, the costumes are tailored, but so are the knives sharpened.
Will Banham get tangled up in the webs of deceit? Will all the loose ends
be tied up in a nice neat little package? Will Dick Whittington defeat
the evil Rat King? In the script, hes supposed to, but a good actor
knows when its right to improvise.
© Daniel Alves October 2007
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