Actors do love their dramas, and the members of the Causton Amateur Dramatic Society are no exception. Passionate love scenes, jealous rages-they're better than a paycheck (not that anyone one in this production of Amadeus is getting one). But even the most theatrically minded must admit that murdering the leading man in full view of the audience is a bit over the top. Luckily, Inspector Tom Barnaby is in that audience, and he's just the man to find the killer. With so many dramas playing out, there's no shortage of suspects, including secret lovers and jealous understudies galore.
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Oh, I should never watch the dramatization of a novel if I'm planning to read it, because I actually knew the identity of the killer before I started. I love the Inspector Barnaby murder mysteries dramatized on the Biography channel, and they have renewed my interest in Caroline Graham's books which have just been sitting here, unread, on my shelves for years.So on to this book: who would like it? Anyone who's followed the series on television would enjoy it; anyone who likes British mysteries would also like this one.The setting is the Causton Amateur Dramatic Society (CADS); the group is currently putting on a production of Amadeus. The dramatis personae include the director, Harold, who is a twit and has an over-inflated sense of his worth to the project (or any project by CADS for that matter), the leading man, Esslyn, who is quite wealthy but yet hated by everyone for his snobbery and pompery; his wife Kitty, a young 20-something; Esslyn's first wife and her husband; Tim & Avery, a gay couple who rent out a room to Nicholas, a young student who desperately wants to succeed in the theater; Deirdre, the girl Friday who does pretty much everything Harold tells her even though he makes ridiculous demands, and who is ridiculed by many of the cast members; and David and Colin Smy, a a young man and his dad. It seems that on opening night, one of these people switched razors from the prop tray so that Esslyn, as Salieri, cuts his throat with a real razor in front of the audience at the end of the play.Barnaby, who is in the audience because his wife is a member of CADS, takes charge immediately, along with his gripey, complaining sergeant, Troy. But it seems that pretty much everyone has a motive to kill Esslyn, so getting to the bottom of this mystery is tougher than it seems.Recommended for those who enjoy a mix of cozy/police procedural; it might be good to start with book #1 before reading the second.
Compared to the previous book in the series, this was a slow one. The body doesn't show up until the half-way mark. Due to the complicated relationships between the characters and the fact that Inspector Barnaby was familiar with most of the suspects, having worked on previous sets for the CADS, a certain amount of set-up was necessary for the story. It would have felt forced and unnatural to shoehorn all that information and backstory in after the murder. However, just because I understand why the book was laid out like this doesn't excuse the fact that it ran a little long. This was a re-read and I remembered quite a lot from the first time and I still kept thinking, "When is he going to die already?" The ending itself was also a bit of a letdown from The Killings at Badger’s Drift. The way Inspector Barnaby revealed who the murderer was felt out of character to me. After recovering the razor, would Inspector Barnaby really go to the theater and confront everybody like that? From my reading of his character he would be more likely to pull the killer aside, mention how he had a few follow-up questions for everybody and then arrest the killer. He never struck me as a showboat and that's what the ending felt like, showing off. I gave this book 3 1/2 stars it just wasn't as good as The Killings at Badger's Drift.