Friday’s Forgotten Book: Not Dead, Only Resting by Simon Brett

Simon Brett has been a mainstay of English crime fiction for 45 years. He has published some 60 volumes, in addition to writing for radio and television series. He received the Diamond Dagger Award from The Crime Writers’ Association in 2014 and the Order of the British Empire in 2016 for significant contributions to literature.

In addition to a handful of stand-alone books, he created four distinct series protagonists. Bright Young Things Blotto, the Honourable Devereux Lyminster, and his sister Twinks, in the 1920s; retiree Carole Seddon, who finds her choice of a retirement village has far more crime than she expected; Melita Pargeter, who relocates to a seaside retirement hotel after her husband’s death; and Charles Paris, an actor frequently out of work who drinks a little more than he should.

Charles Paris is perhaps my favorite of the four; I love mysteries set in the theatre. In Not Dead, Only Resting (Scribner, 1984), the 10th in the series, Charles is out of work as usual and looking for ways to pay the bills while he waits for the casting call he knows will come. He jumps at the chance to join friends at the swanky restaurant named Tryst for a meal he doesn’t have to pay for. While he’s there, the gay couple who own and run the restaurant quarrel publicly. When the murdered body of one is discovered a few days later, the other, who has disappeared, is assumed to be the culprit.

Charles is enlisted by the cousin of the vanished restaurant owner to clear his name. This unofficial investigation takes Charles to a country villa in France and to gay escort services and many places in between, always fortified first by strong drink.

A nicely layered plot with murder, blackmail, and criminal assault; lively characters, one of whom uses Cockney rhyming slang so often he’s hard to understand; and an unexpected ending, all woven into a detailed backdrop of the realities of the acting world.

This book was shortlisted for the Gold Dagger Award in 1984.

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