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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

Anthony Quinn's Curtain Call - Portrait Of A Society On The Brink

Curtain Call - Anthony Quinn

Set in nineteen thirties London, Curtain Call depicts a network of contrasting characters - a pompous gay theatre critic, his long-suffering secretary, a West-End actress, a prostitute, and a society portrait-painter -  all caught up in a series of sadistic murders that changes  their lives  irrevocably.


What sets this novel apart from the average run-of-the-mill thriller is the skill with which the author summons up a picture of London  between the wars. It is a two-faced society, proffering glittering rewards to those who succeed, but merciless towards those who fall by the wayside.


It is also a society on the brink of radical transformation, the gaze of many of its inhabitants still fixed upon the end of the nineteenth century while a series of seismic events - the rise of fascism, the abdication crisis, the dawn of the movie industry -  are beginning to change their world forever.


Intent upon their own desires or simply struggling to find security, the characters are oblivious to the changes being wrought around them. Only Madeline, the prostitute around whom  much of the plot revolves, glimpses the truth about the killer hiding in plain sight as well as possessing an intuitive awareness of the impending catastrophe that will overtake them all and end in the cataclysm of world war; but she has no idea what to do with this knowledge.


Colourful and well-researched, Curtain Call is an intelligent and richly-textured novel that manages to transcend the limitations of its genre