Wednesday, May 25, 2011

FM for Murder by Patricia Rockwell

Recently I went on a book-buying tear at Amazon to burn down some gift card credit. Part of my goal was to stock up on some less expensive titles - given the recent boom of 99 cent eBooks, I thought surely I'd find some titles relevant to this blog. FM for Murder, part of a series starring an acoustics expert, held an interesting premise, and a good price.

Bear in mind, this is the second book in a series, so if you are the anal retentive sort who must start with A before going to B you may wish to see what else Rockwell has to offer. This book, FWIW, is written in a manner that doesn't give away anything important from its predecessor. That's a good thing in terms of spoilers, and to give Rockwell credit I didn't feel lost due to any inside references.

Getting to the story: the Black Vulture is, rather was, a popular local DJ who held court during a late-night shift of alternative rock and songs for the goth/emo set. His on-air murder sets off a ripple of shock and concern among fans, but for college professor Pamela Barnes the event rekindles her sleuthing desires. Not that she takes charge immediately - local authorities call on her expertise in sound recordings and voice to assist with digging up clues, and we find out quickly that her family is none too pleased with this moonlighting.

Meanwhile, a subplot involving Daniel Bridgewater, heir to a carpet manufacturing company a few hours away, takes the reader slowly through a familial conflict veiled in secrets. Desperate to mend ties between his ailing father and prodigal brother, Daniel tracks down the elusive David to discover a reunion is inevitable, but not in the way he expects. To go further into detail would give away too much of the story, so I will just say that Rockwell brings together both story lines the way one would slowly pull on a zipper. The lives affected do not cross so much as meet together at the right time for a resolution.

I personally would not consider FM for Murder a mystery in the traditional sense. The book is presented more like a crime drama, where the pieces gradually come together. You may get a sense of where the story is going as you read - I got to a certain point and figured out much of the revelations before they happened. Still, it didn't diminish what I enjoyed of the book - mainly Pamela's sleuthing. A sub-plot involving a co-worker's pending marriage - while likely used to shape Pamela's workplace and expand on characterization - didn't catch my interest as much. I felt that space could have better served in Pamela's corner.

As a quick read for a good price, however, FM for Murder just may satisfy readers of suspense.

Rating: B-

Kathryn Lively is a mystery author whose titles include Rock Deadly and Rock Til You Drop.

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