Saturday, July 22, 2017

Quick Curtain: Review

Thanks to the British Library Crime Classics series mysteries from the Golden Age that have been forgotten are finding a new readership. Mysteries like Quick Curtain (1934) by Alan Melville. As Martin Edwards mentions in his excellent introduction, Melville's book is a delightfully witty detective novel and Melville's "aim was to have fun with the genre." Dorothy L. Sayers took him to task in her review for not following police procedure, but, honestly--and I love Sayers's novel--Sayers doesn't stick that closely to procedure herself. Would Scotland Yard really let Lord Peter Wimsey go bargin' round hunting for clues as an amateur? Probably not. But it makes for lovely stories. As does Melville's use of Inspector Wilson of Scotland Yard and his journalist son (who plays both side-kick and devil's advocate to his father). They have a bantering relationship where each wants to prove to the other how smart they are and to reach the solution first. They make light of the other's ideas, but underneath it all is a bedrock of affection that keeps them together. 

Melville also uses his experience in the theatre world to give us a murder set beyond the footlights of the London stage. Douglas B. Douglas is ready to accept the accolades that should follow the opening of his latest musical extravaganza, Blue Music. He is sure the newspapers will be filled with rave reviews of the performances of his stars Brandon Baker and Gwen Astle. What he doesn't expect is that Brandon Baker will feature in a news story of a very different sort--as the victim of an apparent murder-suicide. In the middle of Act 2, Baker's character is meant to be "shot" by his on-stage rival played by J. Hilary Foster. The gun is supposed to be empty (with the gunshot sound produced off-stage), but Baker falls dead from a very real bullet.

Inspector Wilson and his son Derek are in the audience and Wilson takes command of the situation. Foster has disappeared and when the actor is traced to his dressing room he is found hanging by the neck. Wilson is prepared to call it murder followed by suicide in a fit of remorse, but there is no suicide note and there are a few other oddities as well--like the position of the bullet when it's dug out of the proscenium wall and the woman who shows up at the inquest and the funeral and who claims to have been Baker's wife. Pretty soon father and son are following a trail that will lead to a country inn and another dead body. They will both make several mistakes along the way to a final solution.

This book is a lot of fun. Very clever plotting and lots of twists and turns to keep the pace moving and the reader on their toes. The best part of the book is the relationship between Wilson and his son--making for a highly entertaining read overall. ★★★★

[finished on 7/14/17]
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This fulfills the "Performer" category on the Golden Vintage Scavenger Hunt card.

6 comments:

Kate said...

Glad you enjoyed this one. I did too. Though I would say his novel, Death of Anton is even better.

Bev Hankins said...

I'll have to get Death of Anton--I don't have it yet.

Kate said...

haha it always surprises me when you don't have a title, as I feel with your TBR pile size you should have nearly everything. Nonsense I know!

theinvisibleevent said...

I hugely enjoyed Death of Anton -- weirdly, I wasn't all that interested in this one until I'd read that and seen how good it was. But you've made this sound especially good, Bev, so now I'm additionally curious to read it. Mission accomplished!

Bev Hankins said...

JJ: Yay, me! I can quit for the day. :-)

Ryan said...

This just went on my wishlist!