Exit Stage Left, review by Marco Piva

Exit Stage Left by Adam Croft, review by Marco Piva

Exit Stage Left is a 2011 novella by British crime writer Adam Croft: an interesting, incisive, memorable story that is definitely worth reading.

EXITExit Stage Left is a 2011 novella by British crime writer Adam Croft. In it, we meet for the first time one of his recurring characters, D.I. Kempton Hardwick (who actually is not a policeman). Mr. Hardwick is at a pub watching a live stand-up comedy show featuring a washed-up television personality, Charlie Sparks, who suddenly collapses on stage and dies. Hardwick is convinced that his death is not accidental and, supported by curious bystander Ellis Flint, starts investigating.

There’s not much more I can tell you about the story, as its brevity means that even the smallest detail is vital to the final solution of the case.

Hardwick is a figure that borrows a lot from some of the biggest “amateur sleuths” in British detective fiction, Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot, including some mannerisms and a certain attitude.

Flint’s figure, instead, is… well, slightly puzzling to say the least, as Hardwick himself points out at a certain point of the story, with a remote similarity to Poirot’s assistant Captain Hastings (and maybe to a certain version of Dr. Watson given us by film and television but not by the original stories).

But this doesn’t make Exit Stage Left a Holmes (or Poirot) pastiche: the characters, all of them, have a strong individuality, and the story has a life of its own, an identity that makes it memorable.

Sure, it isn’t flawless: it is pretty clear that Exit Stage Left has been written in the earlier stages of the author’s evolution as a writer, before he stepped up to become one of the best selling eBook-only writers in the United Kingdom, but it still is an interesting, incisive, memorable story that is definitely worth reading.

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