Brett, Simon - 'A Decent Interval'
This is the eighteenth of the Charles Paris novels by Simon Brett and the first to be published for sixteen years although there have been BBC radio adaptations during that time (two had been broadcast with Francis Matthews as Charles Paris in 1984 and 1985 but Bill Nighy took over for a longer run as Charles Paris from 2004 onwards).
Charles Paris is, as is often, if not usually the case, resting between acting engagements with the aid of numerous bottles of his favourite whiskey. He then finds himself contacted twice in quick succession by his agent Maurice Skellern who offers him two acting roles - a very rare event as Maurice normally does not contact Charles for months at a time. The first is for one of the dramatic re-enactments in a television history programme directed by Tibor Pincus - former Hungarian enfant terrible of 1960s and 1970s television dramas - which doesn't quite live up to Charles' expectations. The second job is two minor roles in a production of Hamlet which is to be a starring vehicle for two television show winners- Ophelia is played by Katrina Selsey who won the role through a television talent show with Hamlet being played by the winner of a singing show, Jared Root. The two young stars have rather different views of celebrity and the theatre than the more experienced members of the cast believing in the chat show and the tweet over rehearsing.
The company get to their first stop on the tour which should lead to the West End, the Grand Theatre Marlborough. Here the situation gets into more traditional Charles Paris territory, i.e. murder not success.
I did read this very quickly as I tend to do with books that I really like but I still felt disappointed. I really like Simon Brett's two other ongoing series - the Fethering mysteries which are excellent cozies with a slight comic turn and the Blotto and Twinks novels which have the humour much stronger than the detective story and are laugh out loud funny. This wasn't that funny for me (although I accept that humour is subjective), the rationale for the murder but not the killer is signposted quite early on after the murder and I felt really sorry for Charles whose life is really in a rut with little contact with his wife or his daughter and grandchild.
Would I read another Simon Brett - yes, BLOTTO, TWINKS AND THE BOOTLEGGER'S MOLL is next on my to-be-read pile and I would read another Charles Paris as soon as it comes out but could Charles have a bit of sunshine in his life please?
Mark Bailey, Northern Ireland