The Vinyl Detective

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The VinylWritten by Andrew Cartmel — The Vinyl Detective isn’t actually a real detective. He’s just a young, single Londoner whose name is never revealed. A jazz fanatic, he makes his living digging through the crates at record fairs and in charity shops looking for rare vinyl being sold cheap. When he finds a gem it either goes into his own collection or he flips it on eBay for a quick profit.

He actually gets to play detective when a beautiful girl turns up at his flat one morning. Nevada Warren has one of his old business cards and wants him to find a record for her mysterious boss. Easy Come, Easy Go by Easy Geary, on the Hathor label, is the stuff of legend. CD re-issues are easy to find but the original vinyl release was a strictly limited pressing nearly 70 years ago. What makes it especially appealing to collectors is that the original LP contains a song not included in later issues – a vocal track by the legendary Rita Mae Pollini.

As the story progresses, the burgeoning romance between Nevada and the Vinyl Detective will grab your interest nearly as much as the mystery itself. Nevada is quite prickly at first and there is a nice comic touch between their back and forth, and as the relationship changes into something more intimate it feels very natural.

They begin their hunt with some research. The Vinyl Detective gets specialist record shop owner Jerry Muscutt to do some background research into Hathor, but he and Nevada they get to Jerry’s house it has been turned over and the man is dead. Is it a coincidence? After all, Jerry was gay and could have brought the wrong guy home. Then they notice that someone is following their minicab, and another couple – a blonde man and woman whom they dub the Aryan twins – seem to turn up wherever they are searching, trying to get to the record first.

Along the way there are some close calls and near misses but eventually Vinyl and Nevada discover a copy of the disk. It needs significant restoration before they can take it to Nevada’s boss, and that means a trip to Wales to see Hughie Mackinaw, aka the Scottish Welshman, another vinyl obsessive who also happens to be the grower of the best marijuana in the UK.

All goes well with the cleaning and the detective notices two letters inscribed in the dead wax of the vinyl – that portion of the record between the last groove and the label. It was not uncommon for little quotes, codes or names to be scratched there. Then the Aryan twins turn up and steal the record. A gun fight breaks out, and the fuel which Hughie uses to grow his crop explodes. The detective has to make his escape when he hears sirens approaching and the last he sees of Nevada is her body lying in a ditch bleeding from a gunshot wound. For all he knows she is dead. The copy of Easy Come, Easy Go is destroyed.

Up to this point, the story is a bit of a slow burner, but it without including any spoilers we can tell you that it does end in Wales, and races on to a breathless and action-packed conclusion. What’s wonderful about this light-hearted thriller is that the author weaves in so much background based on the history of jazz. This isn’t just to give the book texture or make it appeal to musoes. These details form part of the greater mystery as to why finding this particular record should be so important to so many different people.

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Titan Books

CFL Rating: 4 Stars

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