When I was 15 or 16 we spent Christmas with my older sister who was already married and she gave me one of the coolest Christmas presents I had ever had. She had ordered a "grab bag" from a mystery book catalog. This was where they just put 5 random mysteries in a box and send it to you so you had no idea what you might get. I thought this was so much fun!
I don't remember what 4 of those books were, though I'm certain they are still on my shelves somewhere. The 5th one however, led me to what has become one of my favorite authors and series of all time. That book was So Much Blood by Simon Brett. It's the second in the Charles Paris mystery series.
Simon Brett published 17 books in this series, the last one in 1997. I loved them all. He then went on to write several other series including Mrs. Pargeter and the Feathering series. I assumed, sadly, he was done with Charles Paris. But now, 17 years later, he has a new Charles Paris book coming out on July 1st. I'm starting a re-read of the series in order to get back into his world before I read the new book. I'm so excited!
The first book in this series is Cast, in order of Disappearance. We are introduced to Charles Paris, a chronically out of work London actor. We find out that he drinks too much and is a womanizer. But in my mind, he is a classic British amateur sleuth in the best traditions of classic British amateur sleuths.
In his first outing, he is asked by a young actress he knows to find out why her boyfriend, a prominent figure in British theater, wants nothing to do with her anymore. Charles is reluctant but always influenced by a pretty young thing. Soon the boyfriend turns up dead, blackmail pictures are circulated, the blackmailer turns up dead, it's all just a big mess for Charles. Throw in the blackmailer's wife who comes on to him at every opportunity and a petrol crisis that has all of England thinking twice about their mode of transportation and you've got a complicated puzzle for Charles to figure out.
This book is pure fun, smart, complicated, cozy, intriguing, a little risque at times and witty. The behind the scenes looks at the British theater and the BBC are fascinating throughout the whole series. I'm so glad to see that Charles is coming back!