Panto season is finally over at the Malvern Theatre’s, and they’re back to showing things I might actually want to watch. This week’s performance was Not Dead Enough, a murder mystery adapted for the stage from a book by Peter James. This is apparently the third in a series of “Detective Roy Grace” novels to be turned into a play, and I remembered part way through that I’d seen the first one, A Perfect Murder, a couple of years ago. I had only been moderately impressed, and if I’d made the connection I might not have bothered going to this one. But as it was I bought myself a standby ticket for the Saturday matinee.
When Brian Bishop’s wife was killed, he was sixty miles away, asleep in bed. Or so he claimed. But a whole load of evidence indicated that he was lying. Could the detective work out the perpetrator and motive in time to prevent the thoroughly unpleasant, sadistic, pyschopathic serial killer from striking again? And could he even keep his mind on his job, when he’s being distracted by having an relationship with the glamorous pathologist whilst trying to track down his wife who’s been missing for years….
The play turned out to be a police procedural, with a rather strange split set. The back half of the stage was raised, and represented a pathology laboratory where a lot of the action took place. The front half was the police station, split up into a couple of offices and an interview room. It was rather cramped, and I’m not entirely convinced that it worked as a set. What really didn’t work though was the plot – the twist at the end was completely unbelievable. Even Agatha Christie wouldn’t have stretched her readers’ credulity in such a far-fetched fashion. I won’t give the plot away in case someone actually wants to read the book that it’s based on. But it certainly broke one of the ten cardinal rules of Detective Fiction.
Nevertheless, the theatre clearly had something of a hit on its hands. The auditorium was virtually full, and there were at least five coaches waiting outside at the end, from all over the West Midlands. I can’t say that I particularly enjoyed the play – I thought the best bit was the ice cream I treated myself to in the interval. But I appeared to be in a minority. I certainly shan’t be buying the Roy Grace series of detecive novels any time soon!