The British reality TV series House Arrest— “One house. Ten contestants. Thirty cameras. Forty microphones. One survivor”—goes its American counterpart Big Brother one better in its pandering to voyeurism. Powerhouse producer Geraldine Hennessy has cameras in the showers, mandates semi-clothed activities, and keeps the temperature in the house extra high, the better to stimulate nudity and sex. Enter crusty Inspector Coleridge, who’s watching a tape from Day 29 of House Arrest, when one of the housemates was murdered by a blurry figure in a white sheet: an audacious crime completely captured on video. Alternating between Coleridge’s investigation and accounts of House Arrest from Day 1 on, Elton (Inconceivable, 2000, etc.) offers three mysteries: the identities of the victim (which he withholds as long as possible), the killer, and the House Arrest winner. The contestant/suspects, who are entertaining enough to sustain a satirical novel sans murder, include Jazz, an aspiring black standup comedian; Sally, a humorless lesbian feminist; David, a handsome “serious” actor with a hidden porn past; Dervla, an Irish waif with soulful eyes; and Woggle, an anarchist who never bathes. Far from dampening audience interest or causing the show’s cancellation, the murder turns up the heat and provides the stage for an old-fashioned melodramatic finale. Coleridge, who finds the mystery’s solution in the pages of Macbeth and is inspired by a recent amateur theater audition, delivers a rousing, albeit shaggy, “the identity of the killer is” speech in order to ferret out same.
A delicious high-tech twist on the traditional locked-room mystery, and a fast, funny read.