BOOK REVIEW – The Vinyl Detective: Victory Disc by Andrew Cartmel

By Marty Mulrooney

Victory Disc is the third book in the Vinyl Detective series written by Andrew Cartmel and published by Titan Books. Following on from Written In Dead Wax – “charming, funny and engaging” – and The Run-Out Groove – “a follow-up every bit the equal of its highly memorable predecessor” – Victory Disc pulls the Vinyl Detective into the world of big band swing music and a murder mystery from World War II.

Between her paws was a square brown cardboard sleeve with a circular hole in the centre. Through the hole a bright maroon label was visible.
”Holy shit,” said Tinkler. “Is that a record?”

Victory Disc works beautifully both as a sequel and as a standalone novel. Reading the first two books in the series is highly recommend, but not strictly necessary; the opening chapter of Victory Disc tells you everything you need to know. The protagonist is the titular (nameless) Vinyl Detective, a vinyl connoisseur living in London with his two cats and his girlfriend Nevada.

Nevada loves vintage clothes, good food and drink, and knows how to take care of herself. Their friend Tinkler enjoys eating their food, is a fellow vinyl fanatic and can be counted on to always say the wrong thing at the wrong time. Together, the threesome – Tinkler would love that phrase – often find themselves embroiled in adventures involving music, colourful characters and life-or-death situations.

Nevada winked at Miss Honeyland. “He just likes to have his say.”
I said, “Look, I’m the Vinyl Detective.”
“And now you’re the Shellac Shamus,” said Nevada.
And Miss Honeyland chuckled again.
And that was that.

The plot revolves around the preservation of the legacy of the late Lucian Honeyland, military hero, children’s author and leader of a band called the Flare Path Orchestra. His elderly daughter Joan Honeyland contacts the Vinyl Detective after he blogs about a rare Flare Path Orchestra record he has found, hiring him on the spot to track down any further 78rpm records that have survived since the war; she is hoping to open a museum and therefore also asks him to record any recollections from Lucian’s old bandmates/war buddies too.

The story is splendid, continuing the fine tradition of the series to date of weaving fascinating fact with thrilling fiction. Before long, the Vinyl Detective and his friends have become embroiled in a plot involving murder (in both the past and the present), intrigue, danger… and modern-day Nazi thugs. Even when the hero is kidnapped and trapped underground – in one of the book’s more uncomfortable to read chapters – the tone is kept light. Andrew Cartmel is a fine mystery (and comedy) writer, keeping his readers smiling while never letting the elements of humour obfuscate the more serious moments.

“Hello!” shouted a voice close behind him and he spun around to see Nevada standing there. She was holding an item she’d just scavenged from the building site – a concrete block about the size of a loaf of bread. As soon as the Whippet turned to look at her she threw it with surprising strength and force, right in his face.

Victory Disc is predictable in a good way; if you enjoyed the first two books, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy this one too. The unsolved murder mystery is highly intriguing, the characters introduced throughout are fully formed and a delight to uncover more about, and the chemistry between the Vinyl Detective and his friends is absolutely spot on. In short, Victory Disc is beautifully orchestrated and well worth taking for a spin this summer.

9 OUT OF 10

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