trishtrash's Reviews > Dead Famous

Dead Famous by Ben Elton
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Mar 27, 11

bookshelves: humour-satire-parody, borrowed-unowned
Read from March 23 to 27, 2011

Satisfying, smirk-out-loud whodunnit set in the Reality-TV cradle of the ‘Peeping Tom’ house, a direct and pointed send-up of ‘Big Brother’. A contestant is murdered under the watchful eye of thirty cameras, millions of viewers, and nine of the victim’s competitors, and still escapes undetected. Enter the mildly (ranging to wildly) disgusted detective Coleridge whose weary pedantry lifts him and his investigation nicely above the ‘parody’ label, so that the reader can enjoy the mystery element as much as the author’s social commentary.

I’ve never read anything by Ben Elton before, not out of any real antipathy, just thinking he might be a bit blokey and/or too mainstream-British-culture for me (I tend to read more contemporary American fiction and British classic or historical fiction, perhaps because I’m immersed in mainstream British culture everywhere else and read to escape it!). It was, instead, incredibly accessible, supremely readable, a gem of observational brilliance and amusing without having to be harshly contemptuous.

Elton’s satire is somehow cutting and affectionate at the same time, recognising the madness, the cynical manipulation involved in having humans isolated and simultaneously on show, but also the basic humanity in such compulsive curiosity. And while the author is gleefully panning the ‘phenomenon’, he’s entertaining us with a tightly wound murder mystery. I was able to beat the gloomy detective Coleridge’s dénouement by about fifty pages – and might have got there sooner if I hadn’t been distracted by all the sex – but while not difficult to figure out, it was still quite satisfying to have done so. It was, in fact, not unlike guessing who would be voted off the next episode of the real thing.
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