Now that I’ve gotten caught up on my reviews of the Vinyl Detective novels, I can give my thoughts on the fourth book in the series, Flip Back. That is because the fourth book has come out since then, and I’ve had a chance to read it.
Flip Back is a bit of a break from the earlier novels in part because the first three books, in addition to paying attention to a particular music scene (’40s-50s Jazz, 60’s psychedelic pop, World War II Big Band), each also covered a different type of record (General record collecting, collecting singles, and collecting shellac records – respectively). Since we’ve basically covered the different forms of records, this time the book is focusing on a scene. In this case, returning to the 60s with the folk/folk rock scene.
The premise behind this book is that the Vinyl Detective is hired this time by his friend Tinkler. Tinkler is trying to get back in the good graces of his ex-girlfriend, cab driver Clean Head (now canonically stated as being Black) after a dalliance with a documentary filmmaker in the last book. His plan is to get the Vinyl Detective to hunt down an original printing of a very rare first pressing of a record by a somewhat prominent Folk Rock band from the ’60s.
This particular pressing is rare due to having been recalled once most of the members of the band objected to a publicity stunt pulled by the odd member out where he publically burned a million dollars. He got kicked out, the band recalled the first pressing, re-engineered the album, and then re-released it. However, as with the other Vinyl Detective novels, the pursuit of this album will lead to uncovering dark secrets, along with murder and bloodshed.
Tonally, the book is fairly different from the other Vinyl Detective novels, in part because a large part of the book is basically spent in a small fictitious island village off the coast of Britain. This actually ends up building up a not inconsiderable sense of dread for two reasons. First off, the island is linked to the mainland by a road that can’t be passed when the tides are up, like the house from The Woman In Black. Second, the folk, neo-hippie attitude of the village kept giving me vibes that reminded me of the original Wicker Man.
In all, I really liked this book, but I will say that going through the story, unlike the other books, I never felt like I learned anything about the ’60s folk rock scene. The story and the events in it were much more in the now then they were before. I still recommend the book, but I’d also recommend checking out the earlier books first.