Ten Dead Comedians: A Murder Mystery
Mystery fans will recognize the plot of Ten Dead Comedians: A Murder Mystery: it’s Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, populated with a gang of stand-up comics. This is Fred Van Lente’s first prose novel after he gained attention from writing such graphic novels as Cowboys & Aliens, Odd Is on Our Side (with Dean Koontz), and Action Philosophers.
Famous retired comic Dustin Walker has invited a bunch of comedians to his deserted island mansion. They are:
- TJ Martinez, retired late-night talk-show host
- William Griffith, who performs as redneck “Billy the Contractor”
- Steve Gordon, who was on a sitcom with Walker and Martinez but is now a washed-up improv teacher
- Oliver Rees, man-baby prop comic
- Janet Khan, the plastic-surgery-obsessed legend
- Zoe Schwartz, whose comedy style seems to be summed up in her being a woman
- Dante Dupree, the alcoholic road warrior, working hundreds of clubs a year
- Ruby Ng, YouTube-posting attacker of other comics
- Meredith Ladipo, Walker’s assistant and protege
When they arrive, they find their host missing, no staff, no phone, no internet, and poisoned alcohol. Then the booby traps start killing people for their “crimes against comedy”.
I don’t follow a lot of comedy trends, but the caricatures here are broad enough that I could tell who he was envisioning most of the time, and there’s not much character beyond the outlines given above. I found a lot of the comedy — excerpts from each character’s act are included between chapters — mean-spirited and not particularly funny, but I feel the same way about going to the local comedy club these days. I also got some of the guy characters confused early on, since there’s not much to set them apart in character voice.
The means of death are gruesome, torturous, and pretty unbelievable. Several depended on someone doing just the right crazy thing. The whole book isn’t particularly subtle, though. It’s a fast read, as surprise revelations of how terrible these people can be to each other keep popping up.
Between the violent, grotesque plot twists and the language, there probably isn’t much overlap between the audience for this and Christie fans, come to think of it. (The publisher provided an advance digital review copy.)