11 February 2011

Top Mysteries Challenge review: A Bullet in the Ballet by Caryl Brahms and S.J. Simon

Genre: Murder mystery
Year of publication: 1937
No. in series: 1
Type of investigator: Police
Setting & time: London, UK; contemporary

When the lead dancer in the ballet Petrushka is shot dead on cue for the final death scene, everyone thinks it’s a one-time event, but when a second dancer is shot while waiting to go on stage to dance the same role, the police begin to think there must be a madman on the loose who is fixated on this particular ballet and character. The police have to deal with a large number of witnesses and several potential killers, all of whom are so steeped in ballet that they can think of hardly anything else, and none of them seems to have told them the truth when first questioned.

This is a wonderfully chaotic and funny mystery, full of eccentric characters and twists and turns. The humour is refreshingly politically incorrect but always affectionately so. The story is full of Russians with strange and funny names, the ballet terms confuse and befuddle the reader but can generally be understood through context, and the characters are the biggest collection of eccentrics I think I have ever come across in a novel. Add to this that it’s a stage mystery – my favourite sub-genre of the cosy – and here is a mystery I enjoyed very much, even if I did figure out the killer and motive around half-time. 4 stars.

Books left in challenge: 68
Place on the list(s): CWA # 70
Awards: None I know of

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