He is a record collector and a connoisseur of vinyl, hunting out rare and elusive LPs. His business card describes him as the Vinyl Detective, and some people take this more literally than others. For example, the beautiful, mysterious woman who wants to pay him a large sum of money to find a priceless lost recording on behalf of an extremely wealthy yet shadowy client. And so begins a painful and dangerous odyssey in search of the rarest jazz record of them all....
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Really a 3.5 for the story itself, but rounded up for the excellent narration. Tough to review this one without spoilers, and I hate rehashing plots), so I'll try to give a plot structure in terms of what to expect . . .
Our un-named hero is slogging along from paycheck to paycheck (not enough money to heat his flat) selling rare records when he's made an offer to track down one the 1950's. So, off he goes on his quest, along with a "minder" from his new employer, Nevada. Unfortunately, there are others, a very nasty pair, on the same trail. Midway through the book, there's a "crisis point" (shall we call it), where the focus shifts from working with Nevada on that album, to locating the entire limited output of its producer on behalf of an American gal called Ree (audio, so never saw the spelling), with the location shifting from London to Los Angeles. This is signaled by having the "record" flipped from Side A to Side B, which I thought clever.
That's about as much as I can say about the plot without straying into spoiler territory. What really worked for me was that the guy is incredibly likeable, rooting for him is as natural as breathing. There's a sort of "assistant" called Tinkler in both parts, who came across as a bit dim, but loyal (could have been the narrator's voice); he accompanies the two on some of the British adventures, while serving as a sounding board by phone and email in the second part. The book seemed longer than it actually was, but I didn't feel bogged down by jazz/technical stuff as much as other reviewers seem to have been. Even the minor (tertiary) characters were interesting enough to help carry things along.
So why not five stars? Well, I found I had to suspend disbelief to accept some of the events. For example, our hero lives in a bungalow(?) with no central heating in London. I would assume the pipes would freeze, although he seems to have a functioning hot water heater. Also, he has no car in London so isn't used to driving there, but effortlessly (it's implied) tools around right-driving Los Angeles traffic? And then there's the resolution itself, which I obviously can't reveal, which was too neat (clever) for me, although I was pleased for him regarding its effect on his personal life. Another slight minus concerned the taxi driver kept on a retainer for their London excursions, Agatha. The woman has a shaved head, so they take to referring to her as Clean Head for a nickname, which I found mildly creepy.
Audio narration was absolutely brilliant. I'm assuming the guy is English, so does a range of British accents well; what impressed me was that he did many American voices well, too, without resorting to stereotypical American accents. Moreover, he lucks out regarding female voices that Nevada's speech is what is known as (relatively) "posh", Clean Head is Cockney(?), and Rhee speaks Standard American English, so one doesn't feel it's the same re-used voice.
Definitely recommend - looking forward to the upcoming sequel!