By Marty Mulrooney
The Run-Out Groove by novelist and screenwriter Andrew Cartmel (Midsomer Murders, Torchwood, Doctor Who) is the second book in the ‘Vinyl Detective’ series. Published in May 2017 by Titan Books, it finds the Vinyl Detective and his friends searching for the lost child of iconic 1960s singer Valerian, who killed herself under mysterious circumstances…
“I find records,” I repeated, before things got too cosy. “I don’t–”
Nevade came to me and took my hand. “Let’s just hear what the people have to say, honey.” Her tone was all sweetness, light and reason. She gave me her big eyes and, though I knew she was working me, I was putty in her hands. I sighed and sat back in my chair.
While The Run-Out Groove still works pretty well as a standalone novel, fans of Written In Dead Wax (the first book in the series, which you should definitely read if you haven’t already) will find returning to the world of the Vinyl Detective as warm and welcoming as a well-worn favourite record. Whereas the first book took our unlikely hero on an adventure throughout his hometown of London and the West Coast of North America searching for a priceless 1950s jazz record, this sequel is more concerned with the British rock scene of the 1960s and the untimely death of a rising star.
All the old gang is back – the Vinyl Detective (still no real name given), his girlfriend Nevada, his best friend Tinkler and their black cab driving friend Clean Head. Together, they must help a grumpy client nicknamed the ‘Colonel’ find the missing child of his dead sister – Valerian, the lead singer of the great 1960s rock band of the same name. Although the Vinyl Detective wouldn’t typically take a missing persons case, there is a rare record involved… so how can he resist? Yet it isn’t long before he’s being dosed with LSD and looking down the deadly twin barrels of a shotgun…
“Valerian?” said Nic Vardy. “Why?”
“Well,” said Nevada, “because she’s a fascinating figure in the history of rock music. Of British rock music. She flashed me a look to make sure she wasn’t getting any of this too wrong. “A great singer. A great British singer. And a fascinating personality.”
“I mean, why now?” said Vardy.
“Why now?” repeated Nevada.
Just like the previous book, The Run-Out Groove does a fantastic job of making its fictional history of music so fascinating and authentic that you’ll forget it isn’t all true. In order to get the people who were closest to Valerian in the 1960s to open up and talk, the Vinyl Detective and Nevada must reluctantly bring their much disliked mutual acquaintance DJ Stinky Stanmer into the fold, using the fame of his name to pretend they’re filming a documentary.
Their investigation will introduce them to a wide variety of quirky individuals from the classic rock ‘n’ roll era, from the oddball photographer who only snaps birds to the self-aggrandising guitar god that once played with Zappa, each one characterised beautifully. They’ll also find themselves held at gunpoint, drugged and digging up a grave in the dead of night, although not necessarily in that order. The plot is as unpredictable as it is outrageous, funny and engaging.
Close by my ear there was a sharp, not-quite-musical sound and – almost as if in response to the sound – the man suddenly fell onto the leaf-strewn lawn. It was only when he staggered to his feet that I saw the feathered shaft sticking out of his shoulder. I turned around to see Timothy Treverton staring in astonishment and Nevada holding the bow and nodding.
“I told you I was rather good,” she said with satisfaction. “Nice to know I haven’t lost my touch.”
Nevada hasn’t lost her touch and Andrew Cartmel certainly hasn’t either. This a follow-up every bit the equal of its highly memorable predecessor, presenting a mystery you’ll be eager to solve and characters whose company you won’t want to leave. Written with infectious charm, the Vinyl Detective has more than proven he’s no one-hit-wonder. The third book in the series – Victory Disc, available May 2018 – can’t spin round fast enough.
9 OUT OF 10