We had a lovely time on holiday last week and I read a lot of books. A lot. And the pick of the bunch was Andrew Cartmel’s first Vinyl Dectective novel, Written in Dead Wax. I’d had my eye on this for a while but finally managed to pick myself up a copy at Big Green Bookshop a few weeks back now.
The Vinyl Detective hunts down rare records. In fact he makes his living by selling the records that he finds while out and about in London. Then one day a mysterious woman shows up and asks him to find the unfindable – a priceless, impossibly rare jazz album. And so he sets off on an oddessy around the record shops, car boot sales and charity shops hunting for the elusive record. But soon it seems he has competition. Ruthless competition. He’s not a detective, but when people start turning up dead, he start trying to work out what’s going on.
This has a blurb on the front from Ben Aaronovitch – and Andrew Cartmel also co-writes the Rivers of London graphic novels so I thought that it might be right up my street and I was right. It was so much fun. There’s no magic here (apart from the magic of vinyl) but it definitely has some points of comparison with Rivers of London – there’s a similar sense of humour and wry way of looking at the world and it has the geekery that I love too – that makes you feel like you’re a member of a special club of people in the know – even if all you know about LPs is what you learned on your parent’s old record player* and what you’ve read in the book. The mystery is clever and twisty, there’s plenty of action and it’s really hard to figure out where it is going next.
If I had a problem with it, it was that the female characters weren’t always as three dimensional as they could be – but that was kind of in keeping with the Vinyl Detective’s record-centric world view: he’d be able to tell you (in depth) all the details about a rare record that he once saw, but he wouldn’t remember what you were wearing if you made him turn his back and describe your outfit to you! I tried to make myself read it slowly – and that worked for about 150 pages, and then I just needed to know what happened next and how it would all work out. Luckily it’s taken me so long to get around to reading this that book 2 is already out and so I can get another fix soon.
If you like PC Grant’s adventures, read this. And if you like this, then I think you might also like The Barista’s Guide to Espionage – which is really quite different but keeps coming into my mind when I was writing this review and trying to come up with if you like this then read thats. You should be able to get hold of Written in Dead Wax from any good bookshop – I’m planning a trip back to the Big Green Bookshop at the weekend to get hold of book 2 – or it’s also on Audible (you might need to be a member for this link to work), Kindle and Kobo. I don’t think you’ll regret it. I’ve already lent my copy to my dad…
*I spent parts of my childhood dancing around the dining room to a small selection of my parents’ records. A bit of ballet, the Beatles, some Carpenters, Stevie Wonder, and Tony Orlando and Dawn, the records I created routines too aren’t as cool as the ones the Vinyl Detective is looking for – but I still have my first LP (the Postman Pat soundtrack) even though I don’t have a record player plumbed in to play it on.