Thursday, November 1, 2012

Light Reading on a Heavy Subject

Corporate communications wouldn't seem to be a likely subject for comic mystery writing. But Simon Brett's novel "Corporate Bodies" pulls it off brilliantly. Brett's mysteries featuring the hapless, B-list actor Charles Paris are my favorite airport reading. I can always count on him for an out-loud chuckle by page 3 and flat-out laughter by Chapter 2. Brett is the Oscar Wilde of a genre -- formula mystery -- that otherwise leaves me indifferent.

In short, "Corporate Bodies" finds Charles playing the role of a forklift driver in a corporate video for Delmoleen Foods. Forklifts lead to accidents, and that leads to murder, launching Charles into motion once again as an amateur sleuth. Brett skewers the excesses of corporate jargon-speak, as well he should. He brings the case to a blistering climax at a conference jam-packed with overwrought speeches. Charles's last-minute narration of a slide show (PowerPoint precursor) that goes devastatingly wrong had me gasping with laughter and rue.

I won't ruin the plot, and I'm not sure if this early 1990s volume is available for download ... but check your local library or bookstore, and treat yourself to some well-deserved light reading that may help you lighten up your own corporate history and speechwriting excesses. It's been a good reminder for me to write more plainly and to keep Ppt excesses to a minimum.