I thought I’d take a break from Christmas books and read a detective story which I had on the Kindle, courtesy of NetGalley. Curtain Call is set in 1936, in the rather louche world of the theatre, art and journalism. ‘a comedy of manners, and a tragedy of mistaken intentions.’ say the publishers. The period between the wars is often thought of as the golden age of detective fiction but this modern book, although set at the time, is not hommage. The twist is that there’s no brainy detective around; the mystery is seen entirely through the characters most involved. The events take place against a period background of blackshirts, the abdication and the burning down of the Crystal Palace.
London is shocked by the ‘Tie-Pin murders’, compared by the press with the Ripper murders because the victims are prostitutes. It’s just gruesome and rather thrilling headlines for the masses but grim reality for those involved. Nina, an actress, has an assignation with artist Stephen in a hotel when, quite by chance, she hears and prevents what turns out to be an attempted murder. The intended victim, Madeleine, runs away but she and Nina meet up again later. Meanwhile the lovers are reluctant to go to the police because they will then be compromised. Nina and Madeleine are obviously in danger, as they have seen the killer. How many more victims will there be and will our heroines escape? I raced to the conclusion, eager to find out.
This is a world of pimps and tarts, of Jimmy the theatre critic with his penchant for rough trade, a time when homosexual activity was still illegal. This sounds more sordid than it is because some of the main characters are sympathetic and you do care what will happen to them. An enjoyable, quick read.
Curtain Call will be published by Jonathan Cape on 8th January.