Detection takes a back seat to satiric commentary on the business of show in Simon Brett's fifth Charles Paris novel, A Comedian Dies (1979).
Television producers take the brunt of the skewering here while stand-up comedians and variety shows receive a rather gentler lampooning:
Paul Royce looked petulant. "I thought the idea of this show was to try out something new, to bring you up to date."
"Try out something new, yes. But I'm still Lennie Barber. It's got to be new material, but new Lennie Barber material. I haven't spent a lifetime building up my own comic identity to have it thrown over like this. Listen, that sketch might go all right in Monty Python or whatever it's called--"
"Oh, so you don't think Monty Python's funny?" asked Paul Royce, leading Barber into a pit of impossibly reactionary depths."As usual with the Charles Paris series, once a dead body finally hits the ground what had been a breezy, gossipy entertainment becomes more of a forced march to a solution. In A Comedian Dies, Paris's skill as a detective matches his lack of success as an actor as he accuses nearly every other character of being the murderer and never does get it right.
Paris also never does bring to justice a character who doles out an horrific beating in what turns out to be a red herring. It's almost as though Brett added the description of the aftermath of the beating to placate a publisher calling for more violence in the book.
Two daggers out of four.
[Note: Just learned that this March 8 marks the 37th anniversary of the transmission of the first radio episode of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" written by Douglas Adams and produced by none other than Simon Brett.]