When nine washed up comedians, including a late night T.V host, an improv instructor, and a Vegas icon, are invited to the island of a legendary Hollywood funnyman, each selfishly take up the offer. However, once they arrive they find they lack cell phone signal, the island is deserted and a dead body is swinging from the balcony. As the plot progresses, and each member of their party is systematically killed, they must figure out who is doing the killing.
A take on Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None and elements of the game Clue, Ten Dead Comedians: A Murder Mystery by Fred Van Lente reads like a classic. A partial satire of the genre and an intricately weaved plot made this one stand out from the pack of books releasing this summer.
The novel opens with each character being invited to this exclusive island. From here, the book is narrated partially through events on the island, in which different characters are given perspective and also through the character’s various comedy sketches. Although I loved the general narration, I really did not like comedy sketches within the text. I found that it broke it up in a strange way and sort of knocked me out of the mystery.
Through dialogue and text messages, the reader is privy to most of the character motivation and to angles of the mystery. I really liked this. Knowing which characters were playing others and trying to guess which ones I could trust made this one continuously interesting and my mind running. I also really enjoyed a number of characters in this one. It really reminded me of those old school crime novels where, truly, anyone could have been the suspect, and, I suppose, that is exactly the point! I also loved how some of the characters were likeable and some of them were absolutely ghastly. It really added some dimension to the pages.
I am always impressed when an author is able to balance comedy and tension. I feel like Van Lente does so within his prose. I was left laughing out loud on one page and wincing the next.
My largest complaint (and I guess it is quite small) is that this novel is pretty closely mimicked after the Agatha Christie classic; I am not a huge fan of Christie (I know, I know) or “old school” mysteries, so there were parts that I found dragged a little for my own taste.
Overall, if you are a fan of comedic satire with a dark twist, this one will highly appeal. Further, if you are a “ride or die” Agatha Christie fan, you may relish in this variation of her classic. I gave it 3/5 stars.