Book review – Over My Dead Body: Murder at #Eurovision by Christoph Fischer

The Eurovision Song Contest, as befits a singing competition marking it 65th anniversary this year, is a great many things – gloriously and deliciously over the top, a great promotional vehicle for aspiring singers or those looking to revive their career, as camp as Christmas and a brilliant way to sew the seeds of togetherness and inclusivity.

But could it also be a hotbed of murderous passions and vengeful intrigue?

In Over My Dead Body: Murder at Eurovision (A Bebe Bollinger mystery) by Christoph Fischer, it is all that and more as mysterious shadowy figures, impelled by grudges unknowable, seek to mar the contest with all manner of strange goings-on and yes, the requisite murder or two.

Very much embodying a cosy mystery genre vibe, which feels like a rewardingly fun mix of Agatha Christie, Murder She Wrote and Law and Order, Over My Dead Body: Murder at Eurovision takes you behind the scenes of one of the world’s biggest music events, celebrating everything that makes the contest such a compelling thing to watch and makes people do anything they can to be there and be a part of it.

Of course, what would a novel of this ilk be without clashing egos and sullied objectives that have little to do with Eurovision’s founding ideals of love, humanity and care for your fellow human being, and a whole lot to do with far more base motivations/

“Bebe was indignant at the tone but she had to wholeheartedly agree. She was more than a one-trick pony and she had to prove it.

‘Then what do you suggest I do next?’ Bebe asked. Fred turned around to reveal an ice bucket with an open bottle of Bollinger champgane.

‘Celebrate,’ she said and poured Bebe a glass. ‘Let your hair down, be yourself and let the world see you’re having fun. People love someone in a good mood.'” (P. 23)

Well, it would not be a murder mystery worthy of the name, and Fischer, who brings the story alive with a breathless vivacity borne of a clear love of the contest and a passionate fan’s love of its inner and outer workings, pours all kinds of clashing intent into a narrative rife with red herrings, deflections and a slew of people, all of whom could have orchestrated many of the events that take place.

Having that large of field of possible wrongdoers in the midst of an event with a thousand motivations for them to act improperly – fame and ambition are ruthless motivators and let’s be honest, while you might genuinely love what an event like this represents, there’s always a less than altruistic sliver in all of us – means that Over My Dead Body: Murder at Eurovision has a tremendous amount to draw on.

And draw on it Fischer does, in ways that will leave you utterly and happily enthralled and also, surprisingly, feeling quite snug and warm, an unexpected state of being that has its genesis in a story that for all its fraught vibes and peril, is filled with characters you can help but root for.

Chief among them, as the series name might suggest, is Bebe Bollinger, a 60-year-old British singer who has recently staged a comeback thanks to a Best of album and judiciously chosen social and traditional media appearances, and who has ventured to the Eurovision Song Contest 2013, held in Malmö, Sweden, in the hopes of basking in the glory of a very high profile event.

Christoph Fischer (image courtesy author)

Bebe does have an ego, like any longstanding celebrity worth their salt, but she is likeable for all that, happy to get publicity but also philosophical that what you want PR-wise is not always what you get.

Even at Eurovision where you can’t help but trip over promotional opportunities, whether it’s helping to host the British telecast, making a documentary about being an insider at the event or being seen with the right people, mostly that year’s entrants, in all the right places.

But Bebe ends up doing just fine even as she joins her friends, Tom, a Eurovision blogger who is contest royalty and ex-policewoman Beth, who together are trying to work who is causing lighting rigging to almost crush people on the stage, shooting poison darts into people or causing entrants to come a cropper when their staging props prove to be more foe than friend.

There’s a lot going on, whether its mystery-solving or career-boosting but Bebe rises consummately above it all, fashion disasters notwithstanding, and Over My Dead Body: Murder at Eurovision continues on its merrily undemanding way – it is one of those good and perfect things; a novel that is happy to entertain and does it superbly well – you come to love the star who is one of the people who actually deserves the trappings of fame and celebrity that come her way.

“Bebe wiped the dust off her dress and watched the events unfold with horror. Daniela pulled a slim dart-like object from the man’s chest and handed it to a security guard before dragging the unconscious presenter by his feet away from the balcony’s edge. Ushers were taking charge of the situation and pushed back the reporters and camera crews who by now had turned away from the music spectacle and were trying to get a good shot of the man on the floor. The security guards scanned the the crowd while speaking over their walkie-talkies.” (P. 134)

You honestly can’t help but love Bebe, who like Jessica Fletcher, finds herself over and over in just the right, or should that be, wrong places, and is all “darling, fabulous to meet you” charming in ways that dazzle and entice.

She is the consummate professional, whether it impressing with an impromptu duet with Britain’s 2013 entry Bonnie Tyler or interviewing entrants with little to no notice during the British telecast of Eurovision, but she is also at heart a decent if flawed human being and it’s that likability that endears her as a character and makes Over My Dead Body: Murder at Eurovision such a divertingly entertaining read.

Obviously if you’re a fan of the Eurovision Song Contest, you will benefit from all that fun insider knowledge but Fischer does an adroit job of holding back the curtain and explain what Eurovision is and what it entails in a way that makes the book brilliantly accessible, even if you’re never watched the contest in your life.

As much a love letter to the contest as to murder mysteries down through the ages, Over My Dead Body: Murder at Eurovision is like a great big warm murderous hug that takes all the plotting, murder and sleuthing very seriously while giving us likable characters (clearly not all are that easy to like or we would have a villain or two, right?), some delightfully convoluted plotting and air of glittery fun that nevertheless remembers that even at the heart of the most enjoyable and carefree events, human nature lurks and the results can be, as Hart to Hart sagely observed, MURDER.

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