A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
Not an audiobook, but part of Audiobook Month nonetheless. It’s about audiobooks… that counts, right?
Literary detectives are often ultra-intelligent, stylishly eccentric beings with an uncanny instinct for human behaviour. Charles Paris, on the other hand, is an acutely insecure, sexually incontinent being with terminally poor judgment. He’s not a bad person; in a way, that seems to be his trouble. And for that reason you can’t help liking him, in a sad and faintly disgusted sort of way. He’s the sort of character you’d like to pat gingerly on the shoulder.
In Dead Room Farce, Charles finds himself in yet another sticky situation. He’s on tour in a good old-fashioned farce (something Brett describes with horrible accuracy) together with a truly gruesome cast of co-stars. Secrets – and lies – abound. Medically impossible amounts of alcohol are consumed. The whole thing is thoroughly nasty, and you start wondering if you should have gone with something less unsettling, like H P Lovecraft or a history of the Borgia popes.
But Charles isn’t just spending night after night on stage with his trousers down. An old friend, Mark Lear, has offered him a gig recording an audiobook. And so Charles Paris, late and hungover, arrives at the recording studio to embark on a new sideline… and soon finds himself at the heart of a murder mystery involving a soundproof room, various terrible pasts, and an inventive use for wet newspaper. (Poor Charles. He never goes looking for trouble, or indeed anything but some work and another bottle of whisky. It’s not his fault people seem to drop like flies wherever he goes. British TV viewers will know this as “Mrs Barnaby Syndrome”).
The sections describing the recording process were actually my favourite part of this book. I learned about things that had never occurred to me, like how hard it is to read the words “Side One – End of Side One” without any kind of intonation. (Try it. It really is tricky.)
Other than that, I’m not sure I would describe this book as enjoyable; it makes the skin crawl a little too much, even by the usual Charles Paris standards. But as ever with Simon Brett, it’s a beautifully put together whodunnit with plenty of intrigue. Worth reading, although perhaps not in one sitting.
Victor Gollancz, 207 pp., ISBN: 0 575 06488 9