I really enjoyed Andrew Cartmel’s first VINYL DETECTIVE novel, WRITTEN IN DEAD WAX. It’s a geeky and blokey book which was lost in its own little world, and managed to be charming even as it was being preposterous. As there’s no doubting the fact that any story which sees the buying of second-hand records in charity shops launch a middle-aged vinyl collector into the middle of an international criminal conspiracy, is not trying to be social realism. Think Nick Hornby meets Ian Fleming and you won’t be far off the mark.
The second in the series is much the same, but somehow less so.
Once again, the hunting of old records leads to the unravelling of age old crimes, murder attempts, theft and the kind of spy/crime hijinks you wouldn’t think would be wrought by old vinyl. Maybe it’s the second novel syndrome, as there is obviously going to be less surprise this time round – but the jokes didn’t seem as sharp in this book, the plot contrivances required lashings of coincidence and the character motivation felt at times baffling. It’s a novel I enjoyed, but one can’t help thinking it would have been so much better with another draft.
This time around it’s not jazz which forms the backdrop to the mystery, but psychedelic rock of the late 1960s. There’s a bit of Pink Floyd/Syd Barret here, there’s a bit of Janis Joplin. For me, it’s a fascinating period and so I was happy reading through and spotting the references and nodding in a smug ‘aren’t I clever’ way. Although, as a man getting more comfortably ensconced in middle age by the day, it’s clearly aimed directly at me and my ilk.
In short, there’s a lot here I like, I just wish I liked it more.