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Death on the Pier by Jamie West | Review

Who doesn’t love a good old murder mystery? Well, I certainly do. My latest read has been Death on the Pier by Jamie West.

Jamie Theatre - Photo Credit Ben Coates.
Jamie Theatre – Photo Credit Ben Coates.

Set in 1933, Death on the Pier pretty much does what it says. The story takes place in the theatre at the end of Brighton’s Palace Theatre. Playwright Bernie Carroll is watching the opening performance of his show “Murder by Association” although its off-season, the weather is awful and the audience is sparse, Bernie, along with his friend Chief Inspector Hugh Chapman are looking forward to the show as the star is none other than renowned Hollywood legend Celia Hamilton. The first act is okay – even Bernie recognises it’s not one of his finest shows – and ends with the leading lady being shot, and the curtain falls. Suddenly there is a scream as someone on stage realises acting has become reality and there is now a genuine corpse on the stage.

Oh, I did like Death on the Pier. It’s a nicely crafted who-dun-it that puts the reader straight into the middle of the theatrical world. Murder and Theatre, what more could you ask for? We follow Bernie as he works with Hugh to solve the murder, and while it initially felt like a rather unlikely premise, it really worked as a way of drawing the novice into the mysterious world behind the footlights. The suspect list wasn’t long – and I think there could have been scope for more. But each character was colourful enough (and with good back stories) so that they each in turn were considered by this amateur sleuth to be the guilty party. In the end – and having been brought up on a diet of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie, I would have been disappointed if I hadn’t – I did work out the who but not the how, which came as a complete surprise to me and yet made absolutely perfect sense. I also liked that the victim was not a nice person and whilst I would never advocate murder, there was something about this death that felt sort of right.

West’s writing style is nice and easy and essentially draws the reader into the world and I became so engrossed in the story that I spent an entire evening with Classic FM in the background sat reading the book and didn’t notice how the time flew by. I also liked the way West developed aspects of the main characters which were not germane to the story but left me thinking about them and where they would go in any future books. I also loved that I learned things from this book. Not just about the world of theatre but also about the way certain government organisations operated back then.

Overall, Death on the Pier is one of those books that you can take on holiday and enjoy while relaxing, or even better sit and read over the Xmas period in that quiet time between Xmas Day and New Year’s Eve, with a roaring log, a glass of brandy and the snow falling outside. A darned good read.

4 stars

Review by Terry Eastham

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