Vernon Watts may have been beloved by the millions of faithful viewers of the long-running soap opera Jubilee Terrace but his fellow cast members knew him for what he was an egotistical former music-hall performer whose untimely death in a pedestrian accident was not something to be universally regretted.
Sadly, though, director Reggie Friedman soon fills the supposed void by asking Hamish Fawley, an equally unpleasant former member of the Jubilee Terrace troupe, to rejoin the soap. Hamish was never much liked. Now he's more obnoxious than ever.
The mood on the set is not exactly serene, a situation made worse when the police receive an anonymous letter suggesting that Vernon Watts's "accident" may in fact have been murder. Did one of his fellow actors push Vernon into the oncoming traffic?
Detective Inspector Charlie Peace faces tough challenges as he probes the make-believe world of skilled thespians to find a possible killer. With a cast of suspects who are trained to emote on cue, Charlie will need all of his policeman's instincts if he's to avert further tragedy.
Writing with his usual acerbic wit and penetrating insight into human foibles, acclaimed master of mystery Robert Barnard gives us another winning entry in his magnificent body of work.