Curtain Call Hardcover – 8 Jan 2015
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"This is an utterly delightful read, made to appear easy, effortless and brilliantly suspenseful, while never becoming predictable or cosy…. I can’t recommend this book highly enough." (Viv Groskop Observer)
"It had me on the edge of my seat. The only disappointment…is when the curtain finally has to come down" (Peter Stanford Daily Telegraph (five stars))
"Night after night for a happy week, Quinn filled my dreams with glossy surfaces and hidden vices, silk stockings and champagne and intellectual snobberies and long walks home on hard London pavements. Anyone who paces the West End streets will find them more haunted after reading this book." (Libby Purves New Statesman)
"Curtain Call is a beautifully written, absorbing work of historical fiction." (James Kidd Independent)
"Curtain Call goes from gripping you lightly to gripping you tightly. Both in its construction and its characters there is more going on beneath the surface than first appears." (Dominic Maxwell The Times)
Murder, ambition, ugly politics and dangerous love in London's Theatreland.See all Product description
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So as a piece of lovely writing with some interesting characters, situations and settings redolent of the era - great.
As a murder mystery though - feeble and disappointing. Quite the curate's egg.
The setting is a time of looming war, royal crisis, blackshirts and strict homosexuality laws. It is not an easy novel to categorize: there are murders, but it is not a detective novel; we see the world of art and theatre and prostitution, but it is not a novel about art etc. Packed with period detail, with not one detail too many, this is written with a light hand and a clever plot. It starts with a romantic assignation and chance encounter in a hotel with a murderer, known in the newspapers as the Tiepin Killer. This meeting of only seconds, brings together the key characters and kickstarts the murder plotline.
After a liaison in a London hotel, Nina Land interrupts and attack by a serial killer and while she saves Madeleine Farwewell’s life it soon becomes clear that both the women are in danger.
The web is fairly tangled because Nina’s lover cannot be seen to be involved although he is the one who drew an artist’s impression of the attacker.
The reader is swept into the theatrical and artistic milieu of 1936 where the mix of theatre critics, journalists, patrons, prostitutes and a sprinkling of fascists create a maze of intrigue and suspicion at whose centre is the murderer.
The characters are well drawn and fit well into the 30s setting; it is easy to see the story running in your mind like a black and white film. There is humour as well as tension.
A couple of criticisms: one clue to the murederer’s identity is very obvious to the reader and yet missed by the main characters, but they have been painted as too intelligent to have missed it, especially Nina, the theatrical; also there is one detail of Jimmy Erskine’s predelictions that would have been better missed out on the premise of good taste.
Apart from that it is a thoroughly enjoyable read.
I see the author's next novel is called Freya. This will be Freya Wiley, the daughter of one of the protagonists in 'Curtain Call' - and so the story is set to continue in London during the year of 1945. This 'soon to be published novel' is already high on my reading list..