This first book in a new murder mystery series hits all the right notes to create a suitably intriguing read.
Having worked on numerous West End shows, Jamie West puts his knowledge of the industry to excellent use in this cosy and insightful murder mystery, which has slight echoes of The Mousetrap to it – but with a contemporary insight that makes it entertaining to read.
Playwright Bertie Carroll, who has written plenty of whodunnits for the stage and arrives in Brighton to see one of his lesser staged plays being performed at the Pier Palace Theatre. However, he is soon forced to turn into a real life detective, as Hollywood actress Celia Hamilton is murdered on stage on the opening night. All of those on stage and off it have potential motives – but can Bertie along with his good friend Chief Inspector Hugh Chapman find out what really happened?
While this story unfolds as you would expect, complete with a huge range of motives for the well-developed characters that keeps the reader guessing, Death on the Pier really allows West to go into great depth and detail of the world of theatre – many details of which are important to the case. Every step of the way, the reader is effectively taken into the depths of the Pier Palace Theatre, offering insights on how things work backstage as well as the realities of touring life for actors and the backstage teams – which somehow heighten the characters motivations for murder.
Throughout it all, everything has been well constructed plot wise as well as offering a wide variety of characters for Bertie and Hugh to question. It is also fascinating to see how Bertie and Hugh’s minds work so well together to get to the truth, their lines of thought well thought out and reasoned that it is difficult not to be swept away into this story. Plus by being set in the 1930’s, there is an old fashioned charm about it that you almost feel as though Agatha Christie is watching from a distance – the descriptions are filled with colour and completely vivid and you can picture the crime unfolding very easily.
While the book moves at great pace, it feels as though it is almost too much in a hurry and there isn’t much background given to Hugh and Bertie’s characters (but as there is going to be a second book so time for development). It would have been lovely to have had just a little more anticipation and suspense thrown into it to grip the reader even more thoroughly.
Overall though, it is still an entertaining and fun read and I do find myself wondering what is next in store for Hugh and Bertie in their next crime solving job together.
By Emma Clarendon
Death on the Pier is available to buy now.