Roxanne Bouchard (trans David Warriner)
Orenda Books, 18 August 2022
Available as: PB, 275pp, e, audio
Source: Advance copy
ISBN(PB): Whisper of the Seals
In this, the sixth adventure for the Vinyl Detective and his associates, the crew make an expedition to Sweden after the Detective is hired to test listen to a sought after record (the 'Attack and Decay' of the title). It's not in one of his favoured genres at all, a sort of Goth death metal thing, but a job's a job, the cats have to be fed and the wine bill won't pay itself. Plus the client is wealthy and willing to underwrite a trip for Nevada, Agatha and Tinkler as well, so off they all go.
Cartmel has some fun with the subsequent adventure, ticking off the tropes of Scandi noir ('Lonely murder Farmhouse. Check') even while nothing in particular seems to threaten. Rather, he sticks to the winning formula of these books which I'd characterise as a sort of cosy crime, with lots of food and drink. It's as important here which restaurant the crew lunch at, whether they are able to get good coffee or not and how comfortable the beds are as who is murdered or why. (Actually VERY important, as one of said restaurants introduces Tinkler to a young lady he hopes will make all his dreams come true - and no, I don't want to describe Tinkler's dreams, if you've read this series you will be able to imagine them).
The first half of the book is therefore largely occupied by this agreeable footling around, involving the four in their usual banter and introducing them to the small town they're visiting and to some of its eccentric residents. These include a priest who searches her back garden for the neighbour's dog's poo at night, marking it with a glow stick; a Swedish woman who only speaks in Mockney English, to the anguish of her husband; and the proprietor of a second hand store based in a former water tower.
Then the murders start...
I rather pride myself on anticipating where things will go in crime fiction, but I was completely caught off guard here when a rather bizarre caper (garnished with the usual coincidences of the series) suddenly goes sideways and everything takes a turn for the gruesome. After that things get dark very fast, in a whirl of sinister crows, bizarre killings, and suspected poisoning. Can 'Attack and Decay" actually be cursed - as the Church, which tried to suppress it, claims? If so, what does it mean that the Detective has listened to it not only one, but four times?
The second part of the book, taking forward amidst spiralling danger and hair-raising escapes, is pretty much constant action, and highly satisfying, leading up to an action filled climax in which Tinkler is key (while he is still often annoying I think in this book he's brought into the fold rather more, as it were).
Overall, Attack and Decay will be great fun for readers who know and love the Detective and his friends, having followed them through their previous outings. It's a fine addition to the series. If you haven't read the earlier books you should though go and do that before reading this one.
For more information about Attack and Decay, see the Titan website here.