An Amateur Corpse has a different feel from the first three Charles Paris mysteries because Charles isn’t actually in a production. He’s been asked to be the Critic in a Critic’s Circle for an amateur theater. Charles has gotten suckered into it because his old college friend Hugo’s wife is in the play. He’s supposed to provide professional critique on the amateur performances. Of course, no one really wants to be critiqued, they want to be praised and don’t appreciate it when that isn’t exactly what Charles does.
When one of this troop of amateurs turns up dead, Charles doesn’t like the answer the police are coming up with and begins snooping around on his own. His answers don’t seem to be the same as the ones the police have and after a few twists and turns, outs the killer.
The mystery takes centar stage in this book. In the first three, it felt as if the The Theater was as important as the mystery but not in this one. The bulk of this story is about Charles’ investigation. As a mystery lover, I like that. The theater is a great setting but doesn’t need to dominate the story to the exclusion of the mystery. I also love that there are lots of references to past stories. I like continuity.
Simon Brett has a great feel for his characters. You believe the motivations and emotions and that those motivations and emotions would lead to the actions of the characters. While this might not be considered “great literature” by artsy types, it gives a lot of insight into human nature. And it entertains me! What more can I ask from a book?