Dunne, May 2002, 23.95, 272 pp.
Only five years ago Flugelhorn's Comedy Cabaret was the hottest ticket in Hollywood but then owner Mel Sikorsky retired. Now the place is quieter than a funeral hall with few patrons and no comedy superstars ever showing up like they once did. Biff Kincaid knows how far the place has fallen by the fact that he is the middle comedian at the joint similar to Richie Ashburn's comment about making baseball's Hall of Fame. A few years ago Biff could not have gotten in either as a performer or a patron. However, besides his own act receiving the silent treatment from the twenty or so morgue attendees AKA customers, owner Bernie Coleman cheats Biff out of his fee.
Biff returns to collect his money only to find someone murdered Bernie. Realizing that the police place him on the suspect short list, Biff investigates Bernie's recent activities. He learns that Bernie helped set up amateur comedy contests at California prisons but the last one enabled two felons to escape. Could the prison gig have led to Bernie's death or was it a comic who died on his stage?
Once readers accept the fact that Biff is investigating the homicide and after a beating or two continuing to make inquiries are not bad jokes, the audience will enjoy the latest Kincaid amateur sleuth tale (see HECKLER and KILLER MATERIAL). The story line is amusing even if fans will want to give Biff the hook as a detective for not ending the act before he gets himself killed. DEAD CROWD is light reading as comedian author Dan Barton furbishes an unlikely but entertaining yarn.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner