Colin Crampton of the Brighton Chronicle is on the case again – but this time without having an official reporter’s job.
A local theatrical agent has been found in his office, stabbed to death with a sword. The Chronicle’s theater critic is found there, too – with his hand on the sword and crying hysterically. The police see an open-and-shut case. Crampton isn’t so sure and begins investigating. When the Chronicle fires the critic, Crampton tells his editor that he quits.
The reporter learns that a lot of people are thrilled to see the agent dead, including most of his clients. The case becomes more complicated when Crampton, leaving a comedy club whose performers vastly outnumber the audience, is set upon by two American goon-types, wielding a baseball bat and looking to use Crampton’s head for a ball. They’re only stopped when Crampton’s girlfriend, Shirley Goldsmith, arrives on the scene, brandishing a fire extinguisher. Who would hire American mobster types over the death of a British theatrical agent?
You’d be surprised.
The Comedy Club Mystery by Peter Bartram is the newest installment in the Colin Crampton of the Chronicle mysteries, and it’s just as funny and fast-paced as its predecessors. Set in 1965, in rings with authenticity of newspapers of the time, and for good reason. Bartram has had a long career in journalism, including being a reporter on a weekly newspaper, an editor for newspapers and magazines in London, and freelance journalism – all of which have been utilized in creating the character of Colin Crampton. Bartram is also a member of the Society of Authors and the Crime Writers’ Association.
Bartram fills the story with vivid characters. Frank Figges is the balding, chain-smoking editor who is constantly running interference between his staff and his publisher. Crampton’s landlady pounces faster than a vulture on roadkill. The police captain is a recognizable type, more than ready to lock the theater critic away because of a bad review the critic gave his wife. And Crampton himself is the cynical, wisecracking reporter who barely keeps himself out of the law’s reach.
The Comedy Club Mystery is a fun, entertaining story, and something of an indulgence for those of us who remember what newspapers and reporters used to be like.