The Opening Night Murders (2019) by James Scott Byrnside

I read Goodnight Irene last month and it was so good that I had to immediately order its sequel.

Eight years on from that case, Rowan Manory feels old but the arrival of “attractive specimen” Lisa Pluvium perks him up. She has received an anonymous letter promising that she will die on the opening night of “The Balcony”, a play that she is putting on with her sister Jenny.

Manory sits in the stalls with his sidekick Walter Williams watching backstage but despite these precautions death arrives as promised – and no one saw a thing.

Even though I haven’t had the pleasure of reading it the set-up is a clear homage to “Death of Jezebel”- unsurprising given Byrnside dedicated his first book to Christianna Brand – and we are explicitly given a Brandian closed circle of suspects. A second murder – no spoiler it’s in the title after all –  reminded me of something from another Brand book but I failed to make anything of it.

This included one of the most shocking things I have read in a long time as once again Byrnside delivers a brilliant solution which pulls everything together.

So soon I will move onto “The Strange Case of the Barrington Hills Vampire” – an earlier adventure which is referred to in the first chapter – and then hope that Byrnside publishes something new later this year. I haven’t anticipated a brand new series this much since the Redwall books in the early 90s!

N.B. this includes full spoilers for Goodnight Irene so make sure you start there.


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