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Crime That Strikes a Chord: Musical Mysteries

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This list of musical mysteries was originally published in our mystery newsletter, Unusual Suspects. Sign up for it here to get news and recommendations for mystery/thriller readers!

Hello mystery fans! I love when a theme presents itself in my reading life, like last week’s magicians in mysteries. So I was especially delighted when it happened again, this time with music. All these books either star a musician or take a dive into the world of music—and sometimes both!

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The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb

Here’s a mystery book that isn’t about murder, has a fantastic narrator for the audiobook (JD Jackson), and takes you into the world of a classical musician.

I enjoyed this book so much! First, because I loved going into Ray McMillian’s life and world as a Black classical musician. Secondly, because I love JD Jackson’s voice and the audiobook plays little bits of music between the sections that were just lovely and the right amount to give a taste without making you feel like you wanted to fast forward.

We start with Ray McMillian having his violin stolen before the international Tchaikovsky Competition—a massive deal!—and not just any violin but a priceless Stradivarius. Ray immediately thinks one of two families must be responsible for the theft, one of the families being his own (I know!). From there we watch as Ray in the present has to find a way to continue practicing for this life-changing opportunity while also helping investigators and doing his own sleuthing to get back his violin. We also watch in the past how he acquires the violin and has to face immeasurable obstacles in order to continue on his path of wanting to become a professional musician.

I loved Ray, and he is a much better person than I’d have been in many situations, and greatly enjoyed getting to know him. If you’re looking for something that isn’t violent (except for a historical letter that depicts slavery), and want to get taken into the world of classical music, pick this one up. Bonus: that the author is writing from experience and I recommend reading the author’s note at the end.

(TW cancer death/ recounts cruel violence against enslaved people)

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Run Rose Run by Dolly Parton, James Patterson (March 7th)

Speaking of author’s writing from experience: Dolly Parton takes us into the world of country music as AnnieLee Keyes, a spitfire young woman who is determined to make it in the industry. But she’s going to need a lot more than talent—something she has plenty of—not only because the industry is difficult but because danger keeps finding her at every turn… We get to watch the country music industry through the eyes of AnnieLee Keyes as she tries to make it and through Ruthanna Ryder, an established queen of country. We also get Dolly Parton’s humor and music as the book is filled with songs written just for the novel—and Parton will release an album to go with the book!

(TW attempted sexual assault/ brief recounting of unknown suicide or accidental overdose/ mentions of child abuse/ panic attack/ human trafficking, not graphic/ recounts domestic abuse without graphic details)

cover image for The Plot Against Hip Hop

The Plot Against Hip Hop (D Hunter #2) by Nelson George

We’ve done classical music and country music, and now it’s time for the world of hip hop! I went with the audiobook for this one which had a great narrator, Shayna Small, and was a one day listen for me at just under seven hours.

It’s funny that the book starts with a legal author’s note about it being completely fictitious since it name drops a lot of hip hop stars and events, which I found fun and a bit of a trip down memory lane.

D Hunter watches journalist Dwayne Robinson die in SoHo, clutching a tape. Not certain the police are doing their job, he decides to look into the murder himself, especially after finding out that Robinson was working on a book and maybe that is what got him killed. From there Hunter follows the trail and listens as people point him in the direction of conspiracy theories of the government wanting to contain hip hop…

(TW death questioned as suicide)

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Let Me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson

I have read, and will continue to read, every single book by Tiffany D Jackson and I’m thrilled to say she has two entries into this theme. In Let Me Hear A Rhyme, Jackson basically writes a love letter to Brooklyn while taking readers into the ’90s music scene. When Jasmine’s older brother Steph is murdered, she comes up with a plan with his two best friends to pretend Steph is still alive in order to get the record contract he was about to sign. Jasmine’s plan is to use the money to hire a PI to solve who murdered her brother, but grief, reality, and danger aren’t going to make this easy.

In Grown, Jackson takes readers into the world of R&B highlighting the dangers for young stars when they meet predators in the industry out to groom them–if this sounds like a ripped-from-the-headlines case, it is, and it’s really well done. (TW sexual assault and attempted, on page/ partner abuse/ emotional abuse, manipulation)

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Murder in G Major (Gethsemane Brown Mysteries #1) by Alexia Gordon

This cozy mystery series is mixed in with a few things to create a delightful reading experience. We get the American living in an Irish countryside. We have a ghost. Murders that need solving. And music, of course: Gethsemane Brown is a classical musician hired to turn a group of schoolboys into a professional orchestra. But she’s going to have her hands full with this pesky ghost—the original owner of the cottage she’s living in—who needs her to clear his name from accusations that he killed his wife and himself. This is completely set in our world with just the sprinkling of a ghost, who becomes a friend to Brown and makes for fun scenes when she needs to talk to him in public while appearing to not be talking to herself.