But He Was Already Dead When I Got There
Don't Blame the Butler

The idea for this book arose from a time I was watching television all day every day for two straight weeks. The reason behind this marathon viewing is long and boring and you don't want to hear it. But I watched a lot of television.

One thing I watched was the weekday reruns of the old Perry Mason show. Of the ten episodes I saw, I think there was only one in which somebody did not say, "But he was already dead when I got there!" -- or some slight variation thereof. It got so I was waiting for the line every day.

Then it occurred to me it might be fun to write an old-fashioned mystery story with clues all over the place and red herrings galore, and with the kind of plot that keeps complicating itself for no reason other than to keep the reader guessing. And of course the characters must be the sort of people who would never dream of calling the police when they find a dead body.

I have fond feelings for a novel that makes me laugh while I'm writing it, and this one did. Only one serious writing problem arose, and that was keeping track of who did what for what reason and when. I ended up keeping a time schedule, noting down each character's actions and motives and the exact times. It turned out to be such a handy device that I've used it for every mystery I've written since.

The plot? Well, the first review below will tell you that.


Boston Herald:
"Mystery novels are all too predictable these days, so when you first read the book jacket of Barbara Paul's new mystery, it seems as if you're in for another version of a very hackneyed plot. Rich, mean Vincent Farwell calls in an assortment of six people who owe him $1.5 million. He bluntly informs them that the note is due in two weeks, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Guess who gets killed.

"Then each of the suspects enlivens this sparkling mystery by entering the scene of the crime, destroying and/or mishandling evidence in order to throw suspicion onto each other. When this operation begins, Barbara Paul shows that she has mastered the art of writing comedy-mysteries."

Ocala Star-Banner:
"The hapless cops try to reconstruct the crime on two pages of the funniest writing you will find anywhere. It's a 10-laugh moment in fiction. There is a real murder here and it is even resolved in a cool and logical manner. By the time the villain is uncovered, however, you might not even care. This dippy bunch will have you rolling with giggles and seeking this author's earlier books."

St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
"Barbara Paul has never been afraid to try new approaches to the mystery genre."

Wichita Eagle-Beacon:
"Both a mystery worthy of the title and an affectionate spoof of the genre rolled into one....This novel is everything the movie 'Clue' should have been, but wasn't."

Drood Review of Mystery:
"A kind wish for the author is that the book was as much fun for her to write as it is for us to read. General advice: grab every Barbara Paul you can. Specific advice: grab this one now!"

N.Y.:Scribner, 1986, ISBN 0-684-18615-2
London: Collins, 1986, ISBN 0-00-232071-1
Milano: Mondadori [as Era gia morto], 1987
N.Y.: Bantam, 1988, ISBN 0-533-27075-3

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Page created June 28, 1995; last updated August 1, 1999.