I can’t quite recall how I got to reading the first installment of The Vinyl Detective – Written in Dead Wax (2016) by Andrew Cartmell. I think perhaps it was something that Amazon’s algorithm thought I might like and recommended to me. I don’t normally pay too much attention to what Amazon recommends to me but I guess I must have on this occasion.
The Vinyl Detective in question is a record collector / dealer, who lives a hand to mouth existence, based on his success or otherwise at acquiring rare and sought after gems in record stores and fairs, and fairs of the boot variety. His social world, if it can be called that, is populated by the inhabitants of the aforementioned world, i.e. second-hand or specialist record store owners, hi-fi geeks, and his two cats. His world is turned upside down following a visit from a beautiful woman who wants him to find a rare and priceless jazz record on behalf of her mysterious boss. This triggers a hunt that takes us across London, including visits to innocuous locales such a church hall in Surbiton, to more glamorous locations such as LA. On their journey our protagonist and beautiful accomplice compete for the prize with a couple of hoods and the body count racks up.
Record fairs and church halls evoke a quintessential England, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that Cartmell has written for Doctor Who and Midsomer Murders, which might explain the easy co-existence between record fairs and a body count. If anything, Dead Wax felt like a Nick Hornby novel but without the lists and with more chases. Hornby’s world, if I continue with that comparison, also feels a little more believable. I struggled to see our detective and his world as such; certainly not someone whom beautiful women seem to throw themselves at! In fact, I found the latter to be more interesting than our protagonist.
At 320 pages long, the book isn’t a long read but it seemed to take a little longer than I would have hoped in its telling and could have benefited from a more ruthless edit. Notwithstanding this, I enjoyed the tale which was more intriguing than I had expected it to be. The boot and record fairs certainly brought forth some memories of my own, and which lent the book a certain charm. Moreover, as a jazz fan, I always appreciate jazz being woven into fiction, such as in The Axeman’s Jazz.
I’m keeping my proverbial powder dry on the Vinyl Detective. I like the idea so may well check out #2 at some point in the future.