Rehearsals in a new West End play are disrupted by sudden, violent death in the intriguing new Charles Paris mystery. Having landed a small part in a new West End play, The Habit of Faith, Charles Paris is dismayed to discover that his good fortune has been orchestrated by his bête noire, the now-famous screen actor Justin Grover. But why has Grover become involved in this relatively obscure production – and why has he roped in Charles to star? From the outset the production is fraught with difficulties — and matters become even more complicated when a body is discovered at the foot of the dressing room stairs. Did they fall – or were they pushed? As one of the last people to have seen the victim alive, Charles Paris is drawn into the ensuing investigation – and discovers that more than one person involved in the play has a scandalous secret to hide …
A Deadly Habit is the twentieth book in Simon Brett’s Charles Paris comic murder mystery series. Given that Charles – boozy, womanising and charmingly roguish jobbing actor-cum-amateur sleuth – was “Forty-seven years old and still attractive to women” in Cast, In Order of Disappearance in 1975, he is doing well to be “only in his late fifties” twenty books and forty-odd years later. I love this series and was pleased when it returned from a significant hiatus in 2013.
2018’s instalment finds Charles in a rare lucrative gig: three months’ stage-time in a new play in London’s West End. Brett’s experienced and confident style sets up the scene and the cast of suspicious characters easily and the plot proceeds at a brisk pace. Some of the themes explore have a very modern resonance and are quite timely.
The mystery here starts well but the main charm of these books is Charles himself and the humour that bubbles away throughout. Charles’s sleuthing and general persona are as good as ever but unfortunately – even though you find out who-why-and-how-dunit – the conclusion felt like a bit of an anti-climax to me. If this had been a stand-alone book I would have been more disappointed but as I am hopeful of seeing Charles again in the near future, I can live with the ending.
If you have enjoyed this series or Brett’s other works before, I am sure you will enjoy this. For the most part, it is a solid entry in a fun series, but I would have preferred a neater ending. That said, it was nice to welcome Charles, Frances and Maurice back like old friends and I hope there will be more to come soon.
Thank you to NetGalley and Severn House for the ARC of A Deadly Habit.