Cast, in Order of Disappearance is I suppose what you’d call a mystery. That always feels like an old-fashioned term to me but this is not a crime novel in the way The Straw Men is or a thriller like Killer Move, it’s a whodunnit, a comic one. In fact it’s the first in series of Charles Paris mysteries, Paris being the amateur sleuth , professional actor protagonist.
I first encountered Charles Paris in a radio adaptation of one of the later books where he was voiced by Bill Nighy and it was Nighy’s name that drew me in. However looking for a light read I thought I’d give the original source material a go.
Marcus Steen, a theatre-owner and general show-biz tycoon is found dead in bed, apparently from natural causes, a few days after Bill Sweet a man who was blackmailing him was shot a few miles away. Paris becomes involved when he attempts to help Jacqui, Steen’s girlfriend when she tries to find out exactly what happened and why he broke it off just before he died.
I’m aware though that describing the plot doesn’t really matter because that’s something that you’ll want to discover for yourself. I suppose the questions a mystery lover asks is whether the twists and turns are satisfying, surprising without being implausible and the plot clever enough to engage. I think that’s all true. However I personally was looking for more of the wit and charm I’d seen in the radio version. Paris is a sort of loveable rogue, unreliable, a drunk, a flirt and womaniser, but ultimately a good guy. I think the book scored pretty well on that front though I think it definitely benefited from the fact that I heard Nighy’s voice whenever there was dialogue.
I should probably mention that the novel was written in 1975 and set around Christmas 1973/4. There are references to petrol shortages, power cuts and high taxes. Not that that’s a problem in terms of plot, everything you need to understand is explained.
7/10 – fun, light, quick read.