Ten Dead Comedians: A Murder Mystery by Fred Van Lente

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Ten Dead Comedians: A Murder Mystery by Fred Van Lente

Category: Humour
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Kristen Perkins
Reviewed by Kristen Perkins
Summary: A dark and humorous tale of murder and revenge, Ten Dead Comedians is cut from the same fabric as classic murder mysteries such as And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. When ten comedians are gathered together on an isolated island under false pretences, you can be sure that at least one of them will die laughing. The characters' personalities fall a bit flat, but the humour throughout makes it worth the read.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: July 2017
Publisher: Quirk Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1-59474-974-2

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Nine comedians are invited to a remote Caribbean island under the guise of working with Dustin Walker, a comedic legend. Each fits neatly into one of the archetypal comic stereotypes: Steve, the washed-up has-been who has fallen far from his early days; Zoe, the rising female star with a new stand-up special coming soon; Dante, who went from being a kid on the streets to the hardest working road comic in the business; Oliver, the child-like prop comic who can't get any respect from his peers; Janet, the insult comic who is past her prime; TJ, the nightly variety show host with a reputation for harassing his female colleagues and guest acts; Ruby, the ultra-feminist YouTuber and Blogger with a chip on her shoulder; and William, whose redneck character Billy the Contractor is a far cry from his real personality as a posh millionaire. Of course, all nine agree because when God almighty walks down on a beam of light and asks for your help, what the hell else are you going to say?

When they arrive on the island, strange things start happening immediately. The island and guest house haven't been looked after in some time, no one can find Dustin or the island's caretaker, Dave, and Dustin's British assistant, Meredith, has been given the wrong Wi-Fi password to give to the comedians. With no internet or cell phone signal, the mismatched group of ten are totally isolated. They decide to push on with the understanding the main reason they're all here and watch a video Dustin has prepared for them regarding the comedy act they'll all be working on together. It becomes quite clear from the video that things are not at all what they seem – chances are, no one is going to make it off this island alive.

Fred Van Lente's characters, while entertaining, are very much one dimensional. They feel a bit like plastic caricatures of real people in the comedy business. That aside, the story itself is well-written and the mystery builds until the very last chapter. I did not see the twist coming, and was really pleased when it happened as I enjoy being surprised by these types of murder mystery books. In fact, I enjoyed all of the methods of murder as each one lined up rather cleverly with the person being murdered.

Throughout the book, there are separate sections that record some of the dialogue from one of each of the comedian's stand-up shows (or in Ollie's case, his business philosophy). I was impressed with how well the author managed to capture the essence of the individual comic's personality, as well as with some of the jokes themselves. In his autobiographical blurb on Amazon, Fred Van Lente mentions that his mother loved mysteries and his father reminded him of Woody Allen; clearly, he inherited the best of both worlds when it comes to writing.

Ten Dead Comedians is a darkly funny story of revenge. The plot is classic with a twist, the characters can be a bit predictable at times but make up for it with humour, and it all wraps up in a pleasantly unexpected way. All in all, it's definitely worth checking out.

Further reading suggestion: The Diviners by Rick Moody

Buy Ten Dead Comedians: A Murder Mystery by Fred Van Lente at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Ten Dead Comedians: A Murder Mystery by Fred Van Lente at Amazon.co.uk.

Buy Ten Dead Comedians: A Murder Mystery by Fred Van Lente at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Ten Dead Comedians: A Murder Mystery by Fred Van Lente at Amazon.com.


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Kate said:

I want to read this! Thanks for the great tip!