Sitting in her makeup chair, eyes staring lifelessly ahead, the diva is dead. Her sequinned dress glittering in the light cast from above; the little pools of reflected light sparkling across the paper held tightly in her hand. The policeman carefully prises it out of her grip and unfurls it. It reads, “The Last Will and Blurb of Lyra Day”:
“Danny Bird is having a very bad day. In the space of just a few hours he lost his job, his partner and his home.
Ever the optimist, Danny throws himself headlong into his dream to turn the grimmest pub in London into the coolest nightspot south of the river. Sadly, everything doesn’t go quite as planned when his star turn is found strangled hours before opening night.
Danny becomes the prime suspect in the crime, and then the gangster who really owns the pub starts asking where his share of the takings has gone… it seems things are going to get worse for Danny before they get better.”
When Danny Bird comes home and discovers that the window cleaner has been putting more than ladders up with, and squirting more than window cleaning products at, Robert, his lover of 5 years, he turns around and walks out of their lives. He doesn’t even take the cleaner’s chamois with him, silly man. That’s some quality leather right there; he’ll regret that decision.
Forlorn, hurt and betrayed, Danny finds himself in the Marquess of Queensbury pub in South London, his ‘local’ for want of a better word, and not the most reputable of places really. But hang on, what’s this? They want a bar manager, and who could have just lost his job, his boyfriend and, oh yes, his home?
Ooh, ooh, no, don’t tell me… umm… is it… ooh no wait, it’s on the tip of my to…
Oh for God’s sake, I’ll put you out of our misery; it’s… Danny.
Yeah yeah, don’t try and tell me that that’s who you were thinking of now I’ve told you 🙄
And so it is that Danny Bird finds himself at the helm of the Marq, the soon-to-be-hippest new bar south of the Thames. Well, that’s the plan anyway. There is a slight snag here; the pub is actually owned by one “Chopper” Falzone, the local crime-lord and all round not-very-nice guy. To be fair, Chopper isn’t fussed that the Marq will soon be London’s premier gay bar and hotspot, just as long as he gets his cut of the takings, and herein lie the seeds of the start of Danny’s problems.
Lyra Day, one time TV star, singer and gay icon is booked to stage her big comeback at the Marq, a big coup for Danny at his grand re-opening night. But there’s a snafu. Not a teeny tiny snafu, but a ruddy great throttled-to-death-face-down-in-a-cloud-of-cocaine snafu. And Danny becomes the prime suspect. To add to his worries the nights takings have been swiped and Chopper Falzone is less than chuffed. In fact, he is decidedly un-chuffed. Ooooh, there’s nowt more dangerous than an un-chuffed gangster.
Seriously, there are just some days when it never rains but it pours… pure shit down upon your bonce. 🤨
I’m not going to say anything more about the story (yeah, yeah, I know I always say that, but you’ll thank me when you read this and go: “ooh, I didn’t see that coming. Thank goodness to gracious that that Beardy Book Bloke didn’t ruin it for me in his review.” See, that’s what you’ll be saying. 🙂 ), but what I will say is that Death of A Diva is a pure delight from start to finish. The writing is as sharp as a samurai blade that has just been sharpened upon the smoothest sharpening stone that Mr Sharp, the Master Sharpener, could find in his deluxe box of super smooth sharpening stones that he keeps for really, really, really special occasions. The Marq is a living, breathing place, throbbing, yes, I said throbbing, with brilliant characters. Diva has a cast of thousands, it seems: We have Danny himself of course; his best friend Lady Caroline, or Caz to her friends; Ali the long serving Marq employee; Robert, Danny’s bastard ex; Chopper Falzone; Christie, his right hand man and general bully; Lyra Day, deceased diva; Morgan, her husband; Jenny, his daughter and Lyra’s step daughter; Dominic Mouret, Jenny’s fiance; Liz, Lyra’s PA; DI Reid and DC Nick Fisher, the two policemen investigating Danny; Ray and Dash, the ASBO Twins; Leon, Lyra’s ‘biggest fan’; Aubery, Danny’s ex-boss… and the list goes on. And on. Quite how Derek juggles all of these characters without losing track of them or losing their ‘voices’ is a remarkable feat, but he pulls it off superbly.
Some of these are hugely likeable, such as Danny and Caz; others not so likeable, such as Lyra and Leon; whilst others are right shifty bastards; yes, I’m talking to you ‘Chopper’ Falzone, and there’s bloody Robert. Ooooh, I really don’t like Robert.
Diva rattles along at a fast pace, barely pausing for breath. It’s hugely entertaining and very funny and all the while beating at its centre is a warm and genuine heart. You’re constantly rooting for Danny and the Marq all the way through, throwing “grrrrrrrs” and “arrgghhhhhs”, and Paddington Bear levels of Hard Stares at DI Reid and the others who are determined to prove Danny’s guilt in the murder of Lyra, and for Danny not to lose some part of his anatomy or worse at the hands of Chopper if he doesn’t get his money.
I bloody loved this book. It’s warm, tense, fucking funny, wonderfully written, has sparkling dialogue, a clever plot and is peppered with great and memorable characters. For me personally there was a slightly nostalgic feel to it at times too. It took me back to my childhood watching Minder and Only Fools And Horses on TV in the ’80s – both shows that featured a pub at their heart, were funny, well written and had great characters. Diva is like the child they may have had together.
Truly Death Of A Diva is yet another Fahrenheit success story. They really do have a great eye for a cracking story and a talented author. There are two more books in the series, Death Of A Nobody and Death Of A Devil (my reviews are HERE), with a fourth, Death Of An Angel, on the way. This makes me incredibly happy and I cannot wait to dive back into the world of Danny Bird and the regulars of the Marq.
You can buy Death Of A Diva direct form Fahrenheit Press: