Dead on cue

Sally Spencer

Book - 2001

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MYSTERY/Spencer, Sally
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New York : Severn House 2001.
Main Author
Sally Spencer (-)
Item Description
"A Chief Inspector Woodend novel"--Cover.
Physical Description
247 p. ; 23 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

A successful English soap opera is in production at a studio in a remodeled mill outside Manchester. When the show's lead actress is murdered, Charlie Woodend and his team of unorthodox coppers are assigned the case. Meanwhile, Charlie's boss is replaced by one of Charlie's enemies within the police bureaucracy, putting the onus on Charlie to solve the case before department politics get the best of him and his colleagues. This latest Charlie Woodend novel again boasts a difficult mystery and evocative early '60s atmosphere. We see more of Woodend this time, and the emphasis on his interaction with his wife and daughter adds depth to the series. Perhaps because Spencer lingers over scenes depicting life on the set of the soap opera, this tale is not as fast paced as other entries in the series. Still, there is much here to please Woodend fans, as well as those who like mysteries with a television or radio setting--e.g., Simon Brett's Charlie Paris series or David Handler's The Man Who Cancelled Himself (1995). John Rowen

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In this fast-paced, often humorous puzzler from British author Spencer (The Golden Mile to Murder), backstabbing among media executives, aspiring stars and script writers at the remote Lancashire studios of the TV series Maddox Row is both verbal and literal. "Madro," as insiders call it, once "was a television phenomenon," but lately has been losing viewers, and its autocratic producer, Bill Houseman, is looking for solutions. A clash of egos with equally headstrong director Jeremy Wilcox sets the stage for "Cloggin'-it Charlie" Woodend, a painstaking and seemingly dull-witted police detective assigned to find out who planted a screwdriver in star Valerie Farnsworth, leaving her "dead on cue" during a live broadcast. Ignoring troubles at home (his daughter has fled to the nightlife of London), the lead-footed inspector dutifully interviews all sorts of scheming characters drawn from television's tawdry world in his determination to solve what becomes a double murder case after Houseman is also done in. Jealous police officials connive against each other, while Charlie remains above it all, just doing his job. Spencer melds her characters' spoken words and inner thoughts seamlessly, and nimbly makes scene changes to places as far away as the California coastline. Descriptions of melancholy English moorlands are reminiscent of Conan Doyle, as is the inspector's sudden revelation of the culprit in a tense final scene, occurring just before an improbable happily-ever-after epilogue. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review

No doubt about it, death boosts ratings. So when the numbers for Maddox Row start to dip, producer Bill Houseman, creator of the NWTV's prime-time blockbuster, orders scriptwriters Ben Drabble and Paddy Colligan to kill off Jack Taylor, known as "The Laughing Postman." Actor Larry Coates is delighted; Jack's death frees him to head for Hollywood and a part in a big-ticket American series. But director Jeremy Wilcox is none too pleased; he's sick of Houseman's treating the show as his alone. But before this volatile mix of creative genius can ignite, someone revises the script once and for all by stabbing to death Valerie Farnsworth, who plays trampy Liz Bowyer. And since the studio that produces Maddox Row lies just outside the Manchester city limits, the case falls to the Central Lancashire Constabulary, much to the dismay of Chief Superintendent Richard Ainsworth. Still more upsetting is the news from Ainsworth's Chief Constable, John Dinnage, that NWTV chairman Horace Throgmorton wants Chief Inspector Charlie Woodend (The Dark Lady, 2001, etc.) in charge. Cloggin'-it Charlie is about as subtle as a sledgehammer, and since he's been cut loose from Scotland Yard, he's had his hands full keeping his longtime second-in-command, Bob Rutter, from feuding with his new sergeant, Monika Paniatowski-or keeping his daughter Annie from pitching a full-blown tantrum about being uprooted from London. As his own life threatens to turn into a soap opera, Woodend's steady but unsentimental determination make Spencer's low-key latest a model puzzler.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.