Shabby actor-sleuth Charles Paris feels a bit cheerier than usual as this 16th outing begins (A Reconstructed Corpse, 1994,...

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SICKEN AND SO DIE

Shabby actor-sleuth Charles Paris feels a bit cheerier than usual as this 16th outing begins (A Reconstructed Corpse, 1994, etc.). He's gotten a great Shakespearean role at least--Sir Toby Belch--even if this Twelfth Night is just a sturdy, conventional, touring production. Also, he's living again with estranged wife Frances, even drinking less. Midway through rehearsals, however, things turn grim. The director falls ill (poisoned?) and is replaced by Romanian ""boy wonder"" Alexandru Radulescu--who, to Charles's horror, adds sitar music, casts a tubby West Indian as Sir Andrew Augecheek, and along with some superb visual ideas, adds a slew of radical/trendy gimmicks. (""You will have a 'Guns and Roses' T-shirt under your doublet. That would certainly offend Malvolio."") Then the Viola, a onetime TV star, dies from a lethal injection during the rainy dress rehearsal at an outdoor arts festival. And soon Charles is sleuthing (and boozing) again, convinced that there's been a murderous conspiracy to turn the show into the ultimate gender-bender. Rather feebly plotted, this is hardly prime Brett--but for unpretentious readability he's hard to beat, especially with a few choice send-ups (the ""festival"" racket, politically correct ""artspeak"") and the endearing ups and downs of poor old Charles.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1997

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1996