I’ve discussed my love of mysteries and noir on this site at great length over the years I’ve been writing it. It’s one of my favorite genres of stories, and I’m just about always up for checking out a fun new mystery. Plus, I get the added satisfaction of going back and reading the decades of classic works from the genre. And one of the towering figures in the world of mystery that I need more of in my life is good old Agatha Christie. She’s one of those writers whose stories have been adapted and absorbed into popular culture to the point that you can know most of her stories without ever actually having read them. And that’s kind of where I am with her. Well, except for one of her novels. The story that I guess we’re calling And Then There Were None, since all of its previous titles have become absurdly offensive. And I love it. It’s a delightful mystery with a brilliantly simple story, and one that can be adapted and reimagined in great ways. And today I’ll be discussing one of the latest reimagined versions of the And Then There Were None story, Ten Dead Comedians. And folks, it’s a lot of fun.
Ten Dead Comedians tells the story of a group of comedians who all get contacted by a woman named Meredith Ladipo who represents a famous comedian named Dustin Walker. Walker used to be the biggest comic in the world, until his career kind of fell apart when he sold out and made a series of terrible family movies. But, now all of these comics are being invited to Dustin’s private island to help work on a comeback for him. We see Steve Gordon the washed up improv guy who used to work with Walker, Zoe Schwartz an up and coming comedian who isn’t afraid to get crude, Dante Dupree a hardworking road comic, Oliver Rees the annoying prop comic, Janet Kahn the aging insult comic, TJ Martinez the sell-out late-night host, Ruby Ng the social justice warrior podcaster, and William Griffith the hacky red-neck impersonator. The comics all have complicated background with each other, but try to keep things civil as they board a ship that takes them out to Walker’s island out in the Caribbean. And once they get there they get settled in while Meredith goes to find Walker and get to work on this mysterious project.
Which is when everything falls apart. Because they quickly discover that Dustin Walker doesn’t appear to be on the island, nor is the caretaker. They try to move past this, and get to work, when they discover a video from Walker. In it he explains that he’s decided they’re all guilty of crimes against comedy, and has filled this mansion with deathtraps. The ship isn’t coming back for them, there’s barely any food, and they’re just all going to die. Walker then appears to commit suicide, and the shit has officially hit the fan. The rest of the novel is just the comedians trying to do everything they can to survive, figure out what’s going on, and try to get off the island. And, just like the story that this is homaging, thing’s don’t go great. A majority of the comedians end up meeting grisly ends while we slowly start to get a feel for the secrets on the island. They make allegiances, start ill-advised romances, embrace their demons, and just generally devolve into madness. All while remaining funny. This sounds like it’s a pretty dark story, and it is, but there’s still a certain levity to the novel that keeps it from getting too grim, while delivering an extremely fun story.
I do often dive deep into spoilers on this site, but sometimes I feel like there isn’t a whole lot of point. I could really get into it and talk about how the various comedians die, and what the final solution ends up being, but instead I just recommend that you check the book out. It’s not very long and it’s written in an effortlessly clever way that lets you just breeze through it, enjoying a really fun story. The author, Fred Van Lente, is primarily known for his work in comics, and if you’ve ever read anything by him you know that he’s extremely gifted at writing delightfully funny stories. Van Lente’s work on things like Marvel Zombies, Incredible Hercules, and Archer and Armstrong has been basically unanimously great, and this book continues that trend. The idea of taking one of the most well-known stories in the world and putting it into a context that requires the author to write several distinct comedic voices that actually are funny seems like an absurdly difficult premise. But Van Lente nails it. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and if you enjoy comedy and/or mysteries I highly recommend checking it out.
Ten Dead Comedians was written by Fred Van Lente and published by Quirk Books, 2017.
Categories: Page Turners