This book was sent to me by Titan Books in exchange for an honest review.
14.05.19 / Titan Books / Crime-Thriller / Paperback / 432pp / 978-1785658983
Target Audience: Readers who love musical legend, risky business and great casts of characters who are in constant peril.
About The Vinyl Detective: Flip Back
At the height of their success, the electric folk band Black Dog invited journalists to a desolate island for an infamous publicity stunt: the burning of a million dollars. But the stunt backfired and the band split up, increasing the value of their final album vastly. It’s this album that Tinkler’s got his eye on, and he hires none other than the Vinyl Detective and Nevada to hunt a copy down.
Narrowly avoiding a killing spree, negotiating deranged Black Dog fans, and being pursued by hack celebrity Stinky Stamner and his camera crew, the Vinyl Detective and Nevada discover that perhaps all was not as it seemed on the island—and that in the embers of that fire are clues to a motive for murder…
My Review of The Vinyl Detective: Flip Back
The Vinyl Detective is back once again searching for another elusive and rare record steeped in musical legend. This time around the Detective, Nevada and the rest of the gang are on the look out for Wisht by the British electric folk gods, Black Dog. The band are best known for a gratuitously inconsiderate publicity stunt in which $1,000,000 was incinerated in front of a crowd of reporters. A display that eventually fractured an already ailing relationship between the band members to the point of no return.
The original version of their album Wisht (with the flip back cover) was famously recalled and destroyed by the leader of the band, Max Shearweather. Some of the copies were never found and remain in circulation. It is Tinkler who wants a copy of this album to rekindle a romance and he has recruited the Vinyl Detective to find it for him. A hunt that is made harder by the presence of Stinky Stamner, radio host and old friend (or rather enemy of the detective), who reveals the rarity of such an album to the public making it more sort after than ever before.
After an incident involving a poetic gunman, the vinyl detective and his friends are invited to the picturesque Halig Island where Black Dog band members take residence, along with their record collections. Upon arrival, everyone is quickly plunged into another conspiracy involving black magic, murder, devil pigs, jealously, ambitious reporters and aging folk stars. Flip Back delivers a rollicking, intense and satisfying quest for rare music steeped in folklore, history and immediate danger. It is another impressive addition to this series that continues to impress and challenge me.
Each instalment takes some inspiration for real life events that took place over the long history of music. In this instance Andrew Cartmel decided to elaborate on the artistic choices of the K Foundation (The KLF) who burned £1,000,000 on the Scottish island of Jura in 1994. It is such a great inspiration for the narrative and AC does his usual magic, echoing the real lore behind music but it inventive ways that are equally gripping and thrilling.
There are a lot of different elements to this series that make it rewarding to invest in each story from elaborate mysteries and dramatic consequences to a solid cast of characters and captivating settings. AC is consistent with his writing whilst trying new elements along the way. While I found the humour didn’t hit the mark as often as it did in the previous novels, the darker and more intimate prose were definitely welcome. I really enjoy the relationship between the Detective (we don’t know his name) and Nevada. It is charming and dynamic, Nevada being the intimidating yet likeable one and him being the geeky, knowledgeable and daring one.
I appreciated the better utilisation of Tinkler this time around too. His story had a lot more substance and it worked well compared to his previous inclusions. Theoretically this novel can be read as a standalone as AC brings in mostly new casts for each mystery but if you want to understand the relationships between the main group better then I definitely recommend starting from book one. If you are looking for a mystery then jump right in.
If I had to choose the journey or the conclusion then the journey was definitely better. Andrew Cartmel stretches the line between plausible and far-fetched and this outing takes the reader to some unique places. I have never seen a tidal car chase before so that was a new one for me but I was on edge during the whole experience. Might be because I am not a fan of water but it could also be AC’s clever writing that has the group fighting for their very lives.
The themes and key moments in Flip Back are focused and can be seen as both appealing and unsettling. Relationships feature heavily in this story in many different iterations both positive and negative. There is sadness, tragedy, triumph and frustration amongst the many tones that occur as the story unfolds. With additional themes of occult magic and shady publicity that bring more tongue-in-cheek moments, there is a lot going on here.
Flip Back will satisfy readers who enjoy thrills, mysteries, musical lore, adrenaline fuelled antics and take-your-mind-off-the-world-and-get-lost-in-a-wacky-and-intense-narratives novels. I hope this series has plenty more volumes to come because I can’t get enough of The Vinyl Detective.
About Andrew Cartmel
Andrew Cartmel is a novelist and screenwriter. His work for television includes Midsomer Murders and Torchwood, and a legendary stint as Script Editor on Doctor Who. He has also written plays for the London Fringe, toured as a stand-up comedian, and is currently co-writing with Ben Aaronovitch a series of comics based on the bestselling Rivers of London books. He lives in London.