Crowds flock to the London premiere of Douglas B. Douglas’ sensational new musical comedy, hoping to catch a glimpse of stage idols Brandon Baker and Gwen Astle. But they get even more sensation than they bargained for when leading man Baker is shot dead in the middle of Act 2. Fortunately, Inspector Wilson of Scotland Yard is in the audience, along with his son Derek, an enterprising young journalist. When another cast member is found hanged in his dressing room, the obvious conclusion is that he murdered Baker, then committed suicide. But Inspector Wilson isn’t convinced, especially when he finds a bullet hole in a place that would be impossible under that theory of the crime. He and Derek jointly investigate the mystery, which leads them to a remote village, several salacious secrets, and an altogether unexpected solution to the mystery.
I absolutely love Golden Age mysteries, and this one was a very enjoyable read, unique in its lighthearted tone and somewhat breezy attitude to police procedure. (For instance, does Inspector Wilson even have jurisdiction over the case? In this book, it doesn’t matter: he’s first on the scene, so he simply commandeers the investigation.) I loved the humorous running commentary on show business of the era; apparently the author himself had a long career in the industry. And I laughed out loud at various silly jokes, particularly an exchange where the play’s director is impatiently waiting for the doctor to examine the corpse. Finally fed up, the director asks, “Well?” “Not at all; in fact, he’s dead,” the doctor replies. The mystery plot isn’t particularly original, and a twist in the last chapter may irritate readers who want their mystery authors to play fair. But I really enjoyed the book’s tongue-in-cheek style and would definitely recommend it to fans of the genre!