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Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Book review - Answer Death

Prolific prize-winning US author Richard Prosch has embarked on a new series of books. He introduces his new hero in a short story and then features him in a novel. Here are my reviews of both.


Here we have two unconnected short stories. The first, ‘Spalding’s Groove’ is a third-person narrative that introduces us to Dan Spalding who has inherited a downtown record shop from his late brother, Mark. You’d think there wasn’t much drama for a record shop. But you’d be wrong. 

A has-been TV celebrity pops in to dump a few boxes of old LPs for a small handout. They are not what they seem, however… A neat little intro to a new crime series in an unfamiliar milieu.

The second tale, ‘Cinderella Makes Good’ concerns Mark, whose brother Dave had recently died in a car crash. It would be unfair to reveal too much, save to say that there’s a nice twist at the end in this story which is about revenge – and justice.  If I have one issue, it’s the use of the same character name, Mark, when there are so many others to choose from! An amusing reference to his car being nicknamed 'Cinderella' too!

Both tales manage to convey character and emotion, despite their short length. Give them a try – and then follow up with the Dan Spalding novel, Answer Death


Richard Prosch’s follow up to his short story ‘Spalding’s Groove’ finds his hero, retired cop Dan Spalding still in his record shop in downtown Ozark City, trying to make ends meet. Sure, vinyl never went away, and now it’s big again, but the day-to-day business is a struggle. He’s helped by easy-going technicolour Roxy.

Being an ex-investigator from the State Highway Patrol, Dan has good instincts. A couple of youths entered the store and stole a local celebrity LP. He gives chase but is stymied. But a vital clue is left behind…

Prosch’s first-person narrative captures the voice of Dan perfectly, a man knowledgeable about popular music over several decades, and a tough no-nonsense upholder of the law as well. Most popular crime novels stand or fall on their characterisation; Answer Death stands tall in this respect.

Descriptions are deftly sketched. Wit and humanity are balanced against sleaze and death, with plenty of one-liners to keep crime fiction fans happy. Death? Yes, there’s a murder or two and a few tense moments during a car-chase that involves Dan on his Indian motorcycle. The denouement is grim.

If you’re wondering about the title, it is apt. ‘For as long as there had been vocal music, there had been answer songs where a singer or songwriter responded to the work of a previous singer or songwriter…’ Two of the protagonists are vocalists, each attempting to answer the other with their own song. Trouble is, they might not like the answer… But the reader will like the book, for sure.

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