Andrew Cartmel, Written in Dead Wax: A Vinyl Detective Mystery
Titan Books, 2016
Also available as an ebook
This is a long book. Very long. 478 pages long. I read it in less than two days.
Our narrator (and it comes to me now that I don't think we ever learn his name) makes what passes for a living by finding, buying, and reselling vinyl. As in records. (He also keeps the odd record for himself, to play on his hand-built system that will blow your mind.) He is hired by N. Warren, of International Industries GMBH, to find one very specific record, Easy Come, Easy Go, recorded in 1955 by Easy Geary for the LA label Hathor. Hathor released exactly 14 records, all in 1955, of which this is HA-0014. No one has copy (that anyone know of). (Well, there are re-issues, but who wants one of those?) It is distinguished by Geary and Rita Mae Pollini having signed the master disc in the "dead wax," the space at the end of the record.
Of course the search is not easy--someone else is also looking for this record--and people start dying. Clearly, something more than simply a record is at stake here. The writing is crisp, and you will learn more about searching for old vinyl than you ever expected, or perhaps wanted, to learn. The author clearly knows and loves the jazz artists and recordings of the 1950s (as do I), and the non-fictional players and music that show up are almost always things one would profit by listening to (I have a bunch of it, mostly on CD--my ear isn't quite as good as that of our protagonist). The supporting characters (especially Tinkler, but also the cats) are a treat.
It's long, it's convoluted, and occasionally I think the deaths are pushed a bit to the side. But I already can't wait for the next one.