This is the first in the long running series of light frothy murder mysteries staring that charming actor of middle aged years, Charles Paris.
In this book 47 year-old Charles, having just finished a recording for the radio, bumps into an old flame from their years in pantomime, an "actress-cum-dancer-cum-most things" called Jacqui. Jacqui is most upset over her latest beau, the rich and famous theatre impresario Marius Steen. Jacqui is convinced Marius was on the verge of asking her to marry him and now apparently he doesn't want to see her anymore and has taken to writing hurtful and abusive letters to keep her away. Could it be that Marius is worried about some "risqué" photos of him and Jacqui getting into the public eye? Charles, ever an easy touch by young beautiful girls, agrees to try to arrange to see Mr Steen on Jacqui's behalf and return the photos. An easy task made extremely difficult by the fact that Charles discovers Marius dead in his home in Streatley.
Charles is just a delight to read about, well intentioned and ever the gentleman, he never the less has huge failings when it comes to relationships and commitment and the dreaded booze. He's more a bumbling incompetent then an intelligent sleuth and yet he always seems to get to the heart of the matter.
This book introduces us to all the main characters that will appear in the others in the series. Gerald Venables, Charles' ex-university friend who's now a successful solicitor. Charles' ex-wife Frances and their daughter Juliet and her petty and rigid husband Miles. There is of course the "darling" of the whole piece, Charles' agent, the theatrical gossip Maurice Skellern.
The book is quite theatrical and "lovey" and there's probably several disguised references to actual people in the TV or theatre which will only appeal to those in the know. But that's not to say other won't enjoy the bitchy comments, the mentions of Charles' newspaper reviews and other hilarious characters, most notably Bartlemas and O'Rourke and favourite of the hour Bernard Walton (whom Charles helped up onto the acting ladder of success). There are also some nice sentimental touches when Charles meet veteran of the variety hall Harry Chiltern.
One final mention is that the book is set in the winter of 1973-74 and it really does conjure up the "winter of discontent", the strikes, 3 day week, and the 10:30 TV watershed.