Actors do love their dramas, and the members of the Causton Amateur Dramatic Society are no exception. However, murdering the leading man in full view of the audience is a bit over the top. Luckily, Inspector Barnaby is in that audience, and he’s just the man to catch a killer. Caroline Graham, a former actress, is fully in her element here, the second novel in the “Inspector Barnaby” series.
Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby, familiar from Graham's The Killings at Badger's Drift , returns here to deal with a very public murder in his quiet English village. The egocentric and widely disliked leading man for the town's amateur theater group has slit his own throat with a ``safe'' prop in front of a full house, including Barnaby and his daughter (Mrs. Barnaby is a member of the theater company). The inspector must sort out the killer from a very traditional cast of suspects: the play's director whose ego matches--if not surpasses--that of his dead star; the leading man's bitter ex-wife; his current wife, whose faithfulness is less than perfect; the young second lead, who nurtures serious ambitions for the ``real theater''; and various crew members. Particularly well drawn are Nicholas, the young actor, Deirdre, the assistant stage manager--whose primary concern is her senile father--and a homosexual pair responsible for design and lighting. A most enjoyable read, right down to the classic gathering of all the suspects at which Barnaby reveals the killer and the motive.