The Vinyl Detective was an interesting launch to a mystery series, with a mystery novel steeped heavily in 1940-50s jazz music, and in record collecting. The question to a book like that is how do you follow a work like that up and keep the framework fresh?

The answer is, shift the music scene you’re talking about, and to a certain degree, scale back the music collecting side of things. Don’t get me wrong – The Vinyl Detective is still scouring charity shops for rare and interesting vinyl albums, but hunting for records is less of the focus of the book’s story.

Instead, the focus of the story lies with the 1960s psychedelic scene in London, and all the various bands within it, and in this case focusing on the fictitious musician Valerian – who is written as something of a mix of Janis Joplin and Grace Slick. In the universe of the stories, in the 1960s, Valerian (real name Valarie Ann Drummond) died tragically at the age of 25, with her infant son disappearing at the same time.

Cut to the present day – when The Vinyl Detective’s girlfriend (henceforth “VI” because “VD” has a bad ring to it) Nevada discovers Valerian’s last album in a charity shop and gives it to VI’s 70’s rock fan mate Tinkler – and VI blogs about it, VI And Company end up getting brought into an investigation based around the fate of Valerian’s lost child, and whether Valerian killed herself… or was murdered.

While the focus on the narrative in Written in Dead Wax was focused more on the hunt for a series of records, and the lurid history of the record industry – particularly when it came to Jazz artists in the 20s-50s, The Run-Out Groove is instead more focused on the larger overall psychedelic scene in ’60s Britain – the sex, drugs, psychology, and spiritualism. However, it doesn’t delve nearly as deep there as Written in Dead Wax did into the jazz scene. The first book felt, through Cartmel’s own passion for the music and the general writing, like the book was moving at least knee deep into the story of the times. Here, it feels less like it’s moving up to its ankles.

It’s not like the story is bad – it’s not. It’s just not quite as intense as the first book, without quite the same degree of intrigue. The intrigue is there, but it’s toned down more. It sounds like the next book steps things up to their earlier highs, and I look forward to giving that a read.

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