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The International Writers Magazine: Review

Behind You!,
by Linda Regan
(Crème de la Crime, £7.99)

ISBN: 0-9551589-2-3
Daniel Alves review

Life long 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 didn’t 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 other’s 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 team’s 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 it’s 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 they’ve 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, he’s supposed to, but a good actor knows when it’s right to improvise.

© Daniel Alves October 2007>

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