I am a Charles Paris fangirl and have been since about 7th grade. The Charles Paris series was one of my first encounters with cozy mysteries and one of my all-time favorites. I am so glad that have a long break, or should I say a decent interval, Charles is back.
Charles is out of work, as usual, when he gets a job doing an historical reenactment for a TV documentary. His astonishment when he finds out that he's playing all the soldiers on both sides of the battle made me laugh. It also has made me look at historical documentaries in a different way. I can see how this could happen and I found that quite interesting.
The main plot of the story revolves around his next job, as the Ghost and First Gravedigger in a production of Hamlet that stars the winners of Top Pop and some other reality show as Hamlet and Ophelia. Needless to say, putting completely inexperienced actors in those roles does not bode well for the production. Hamlet's idea that he should be mic'd in live theater and Ophelia's idea to see songs from her new album during the play show the rest of the cast just what kind of inexperience and ego they are dealing with. As accidents start to plague the production, Charles Paris falls into the role of amateur sleuth that we know and love.
The mystery was well done and I didn’t figure it out until Charles did. There were clues but not enough to throw the solution in one’s face. That makes it a good mystery in my opinion. I always enjoy the reviews of past performances that are sprinkled throughout the narrative. I like the feel of having a insider’s look into the overall state of live theater and of reality tv.
I enjoyed watching Simon Brett bring Charles Paris into the 21st century. Seeing him struggling to cope with the new world of technology was entertaining and realistic. Seeing him struggling to cope with his on-again, off-again relationship with Francis was a bit sad as it always has been.
If you haven’t read this series before, start with earlier ones. Since this is the 18th in the series, there is a lot of history and I feel this is a series where you want to know the history. Charles is not heroic. He is an aging, alcoholic, unsuccessful actor. He’s excessively human and not all readers like him. I do and I’m glad to get a chance to visit him again.