Paniatowski’s in a pickle when the Whitebridge Players’ reunion performance turns deadly.
The Players haven’t flourished since their farewell performance of Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy 20 years earlier. Phil McCann and Tony Brown have abandoned the theater altogether, McCann for a cushy bank job, Brown for the genteel poverty of a schoolteacher. Jerry Talbot and Bradley Quirk make do with bit parts in soap operas and commercials. Lucy Cavendish runs a boardinghouse. Ruth Audley went back home to nurse her ailing mum; her younger sister, Sarah, has won only modest success playing the Kindly Witch in Friday Corner, a children’s television show. Only Mark Cotton has hit the jackpot. His TV show about DCI Prince has viewers across the country, and his fans, cunningly called the Cotton Buds, storming every public appearance he makes. Which is why Mid-Lancashire's Chief Superintendent Holmes is beside himself when the Players decide to restage Kyd’s revenge play in the old Sunshine Bingo hall, which former Whitebridge Players manager Geoff Turnbull has refurbished for the purpose. Of course, highflying Cotton manages to infuriate every one of his former colleagues, grabbing directing duties from Geoff, replacing Jerry in the lead role, seducing the ladies, and badgering and demeaning everyone else. So when his staged hanging turns real, it isn’t the Buds who are in the limelight, it’s the Players. And DCI Monika Paniatowski, in the third trimester of an unplanned pregnancy, needs to find the killer quickly before her new boss bows to public pressure and throws her under the bus, baby and all.
Spencer’s lively take on the old victim-everyone-hated chestnut isn’t Monika’s best outing but still has enough thrills to please fans of the franchise.