The shooting of an acerbic reviewer during the premiere of a play at the Theatre Royal opens endless avenues of investigation for the incompetents of the Brighton Constabulary in this effervescent farce.
Six years after the Middle Street Massacre wiped out all 45 members of the Giovedi crime family and its rival gang, Fat Victor’s Casino Boys, DI Geoffrey Steine, who’d arrived from the City of London Police just in time to hear the news that most of the town’s leading criminals had killed each other, is still convinced that there’s no crime in Brighton and that he’s the reason why. The situation changes with a bang when an unknown member of the audience interrupts the opening night of Jack Braithwaite’s play A Shilling in the Meter to keep exacting critic A.S. Crystal, a “Robespierre with BO,” from filing his scathing notice by shooting him where he sits as he’s calling out, “Tell Inspector Steine from me he’s even more of a fool—.” The person to whom Crystal addresses this unfinished injunction is PC Peregrine Twitten, a dewy-eyed smarty-pants who’s rounding out his very first day on the job at Brighton by attending the play in the seat next to Crystal after having been dismissed from several earlier positions by bosses who thought him too clever, too clueless, or both. So although the officers nominally in charge of the case are Steine and Sgt. Jim Brunswick, Twitten is convinced that only he can solve a case whose body count rapidly rises. He turns out to be right, though not at all with the results he expected.
As in Cat out of Hell (2015), Truss piles up ingenious plot twists, preposterous coincidences, snarky asides, and characters out of P.G. Wodehouse, this time replacing her murderous felines with a setup out of the genre’s golden age. Readers who can suspend their disbelief are in for quite a workout.