Last year’s The Vinyl Detective: Written in Dead Wax, by Andrew Cartmel, was the first installment in a new mystery series (a series but they can be read independently) and one of my favorite books of 2016 [see my review]. The latest, The Vinyl Detective: The Run-Out Groove, continues the adventures of our narrator and his cohorts from before: his now-girlfriend Nevada, and friends Tinkler and Clean Head.
Last time he was hired by a shadowy client to find an extremely rare jazz record which possibly contained the clue to a murder. Danger and adventure ensue. Along with a good dose of humor. In this one, it’s the late 60’s rock world they get involved with (from an archival standpoint) as they track down the enigma of (fictional) Janis Joplin-esque icon Valerian and try to discover if she was murdered or committed suicide, and what happened to her young child, who disappeared around the same time. And they try to find a lost single that was recalled by the record company with a mysterious message recorded in the run out groove (the area of a record between the last song and the label in the center) which may or may not provide the clue they need.
How does the book stack up against the excellent first one? Well, it’s good, but not quite as good. Still enjoyable, but there`s less suspense and less intrigue. Nevada, so mysterious in Written in Dead Wax, is now fairly domesticated since she’s shacked up with the detective. We still don’t know anything about her background, but then we don’t really know much about any of the main character’s backgrounds and how they got where they are. In a lesser book, this could be a big strike against it, yet here the characters still feel well-rounded and we want to see what they do next. The solving of the mystery in this second installment is much more a group effort than the first, or at least a duo effort as the Vinyl Detective is really the Vinyl Detective(s), with Nevada along as a partner.
As before, Cartmel gets the details and the feel right – he’s obviously part of the record collecting world, not just using it as a plot device. His assortment of suspects and characters seem modeled after real life people. He’s a good story teller and the book is never boring even if less happens in it than the first. (It’s got quite good reviews on Goodreads).
Me, I’m hoping for a spin off series about Nevada…