Curtain Call, Hardback
3.5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


On a sultry afternoon in the summer of 1936 a woman accidentally interrupts an attempted murder in a London hotel room.

Nina Land, a West End actress, faces a dilemma: she's not supposed to be at the hotel in the first place, and certainly not with a married man.

But once it becomes apparent that she may have seen the face of the man the newspapers have dubbed 'the Tie-Pin Killer' she realises that another woman's life could be at stake.

Jimmy Erskine is the raffish doyen of theatre critics who fears that his star is fading: age and drink are catching up with him, and in his late-night escapades with young men he walks a tightrope that may snap at any moment.

He has depended for years on his loyal and longsuffering secretary Tom, who has a secret of his own to protect.

Tom's chance encounter with Madeleine Farewell, a lost young woman haunted by premonitions of catastrophe, closes the circle: it was Madeleine who narrowly escaped the killer's stranglehold that afternoon, and now walks the streets in terror of his finding her again.

Curtain Call is a comedy of manners, and a tragedy of mistaken intentions. From the glittering murk of Soho's demi-monde to the grease paint and ghost-lights of theatreland, the story plunges on through smoky clubrooms, tawdry hotels and drag balls towards a denouement in which two women are stalked by the same killer.

As bracing as a cold Martini and as bright as a new tie-pin, it is at once a deeply poignant love story, a murder mystery and an irresistible portrait of a society dancing towards the abyss.




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Review by

Curtain Call – A Stylish Crime Romp.Anthony Quinn’s Curtain Call is a stylish crime romp set in the decadent but politically intriguing year of 1936. This is one of the most delightful crime reads in a long time even though set in the 1930s it is not a pastiche of that era’s crime stories. There is a fantastic eye for the details that others forget in historical facts, laws and language all of which is rich makes for a carefully crafted suspense which places Curtain Call in a class of its own. Quinn has written a compelling story with a cast of characters whose separate stories are eventually linked together. It is very clear that at some point or points throughout the story we will meet the Tie –Pin Killer but not actually know he is until the reveal.The actress Nina Land is having an assignation with her friend society portrait artist and married man Stephen Wyley at the Imperial Hotel when she interrupts an attempted murder in one of the rooms and the girl runs away. Soon Nina released that she had interrupted the Tie-Pin Killer and that she would need to go to the police with a description to stop him killing more women. She gets Wyley to sketch the Jimmy Erskine is an experienced theatre critic of many years standing writing for The Chronicle, who consistently puts his livelihood by taking risks meeting young men in dangerous places in the darker areas of London nightlife. Erskine’s life is managed and edited by Tom his secretary whose accidental meeting with Madeleine Farewell is who ties the storyline together. Madeleine also happens to be the woman who was being attacked at The Imperial Hotel, when Nina Land interrupted the Tie-Pin Killer.The way in which Quinn writes draws the reader in to the story and in turn makes us care for the characters and what eventually happens to them. The story and characters set firmly in the tumultuous world of Soho and theatre land when London was at its hedonistic nadir, when being gay meant happy and being queer meant arrest. Home grown fascism was at its rampant best and again examples are in the story reflecting the terror they had brought to the streets of London. Also the big event of the year the eventual abdication of King Edward for the love of a woman, the book ends on a positive with the Coronation of King George VI.Curtain Call is stylish well written even when reverting to the language of 1930s English the prose is crystal clear the storylines are neat and the characters are well developed. As you read through you will appreciate the incisive wit, the attention to the language of the period and more importantly the aesthetics of the period. This book is nothing but a pleasure to read that I cannot recommend highly enough.

Review by

This came tantalisingly close to being a splendid novel. The characters were very well developed, the historical context finely drawn and the plot was engaging and convincing . .. until the final denouement.The story is set in London in the 1930s, against the backdrop of constitutional uncertainty as the King's relationship with Mrs Wallis Simpson became more widely known. When not stirring public outrage about the King's dalliance, the tabloid papers are full of prurient coverage of a series of murders perpetrated by a villain dubbed 'The Tiepin Killer'. Stephen Wyley is a successful painter who has been establishing himself as a society portrait artist. He is having a secret affair with up and coming stage actress Nina Land who is currently starring in 'The Second Arrangement' at the Strand Theatre. While leaving after having enjoyed an illicit liaison in a hotel in Russell Square, Nina hears screams coming from a room on the lower floor. Her knock on the door seems to interrupt a vicious attack, and a woman manages to escape from the room and run away. Nina realises that she may have disturbed the Tiepin Killer.Meanwhile ageing theatre critic Jimmy Erskine is living beyond his means, caught up in a cycle of decadence reminiscent of his great hero, Oscar Wilde. The vignettes of his grotesque entertainments are hilarious, though they also leave Erskine exposed to danger as he darts between the higher echelons of society down to the darkest back alleys. His secretary and majordomo is Tom Tunner, a shy epileptic who has been trying for years to disentangle himself from Erskine, though somehow he never quite manages to escape. As the story develops Tom meets and falls in love with Madeleine Farewell, who turns out to be the victim saved by Nina Land's fortuitous intervention. Madeleine is a woman with a secret.The plot moves forward very deftly, and the story is strewn with vignettes of historical people such Oswald Mosley and William Joyce (who later became infamous as Lord HawHaw). I was captivated until the last thirty or forty pages, at which point I felt that it descended into a facile simulacrum of a mystery novel. I found the conclusion very disappointing, and wondered whether it was hurled together at a great rate in order to meet a publisher's fast-looming deadline.

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