Fatal Music by Peter Morfoot is the 2nd book in the Captain Darac Mystery series (available April 4, 2017).
Paul Darac is a member of the Didier Musso Quintet. Thursday evenings he plays guitar with his jazz ensemble at the Blue Devil, and, besides it being a passion he loves, it helps take his mind off Angeline, who left him a few months before. He’s not far into his set this particular Thursday when he sees a subordinate, Lieutenant Roland Grantot, appear at the back of the club. For, you see, Paul Darac’s other job is Captain of the Brigade Criminelle, and there’s been a murder—an older woman, Jeanne Mensel, “put on ice” in her hot tub.
Fifteen years of shootings, stabbings, beatings and stranglings had all but immunised Darac against the grotesque but a wave of nausea broke in his stomach when he looked into the hot tub. Hideously bloated, the corpse appeared to be made of patched green rubber. The left arm had been chewed off at the shoulder, the right at the elbow. But strangely, the tongue, protruding from the maw like the end of a good boudin noir, had remained untouched. The dogs or foxes or rats of Chemin Leuze had missed a trick. Darac shook his head. Drowning and mutilation. What a coda to the evening.
“Patched green rubber.” There’s some good old-fashion description Dash Hammett would have appreciated and used. (Reminds me of “The Scorched Face” from a 1925 issue of Black Mask; The Continental Op finds a girl’s corpse that, “… wasn’t nice to see. Birds had been at her.”) Unlike the mostly solitary operatives of the golden era of crime and detective, Darac has the full extension of the police force at his disposal as he guides the various elements in the deducing department.
It would seem, at first glance, that an elderly woman would have few enemies, but a neighbor had apparently threatened to kill Jeanne a few weeks earlier. And, though it may be nothing, why on a cold night weren’t there any clothes near or around the tub. Did she walk from the house to the dip nude, or was she placed there later?
As Darac explores, he can’t help noticing he has quite a few things in common with the deceased, from an appreciation of music to art and literature. (Eventually, the clues will go so far as to lead him back to his own hometown.)
Darac found the disc he was looking for and fired it up. “OK, you owe me this one, Jeanne.”
With its tiptoeing gait and portentous vibrato, the opening statement of “Brilliant Corners” conjured the image of a pantomime ghost stalking an oblivious victim. He stood listening to the upbeat chase-like section that followed, remembering the thrilling way the quintet had interpreted it just the night before.
Morfoot’s use of jazz music is not filler or placed to make the protagonist look Peter Gunn-chic but serves as a freewheeling witness to the proceedings—a soundtrack to the twists, turns, and moods that permeate Fatal Music. One need not be a jazz enthusiast to appreciate Morfoot’s skill, but an added rhythm for aficionados are his selections of Charles Mingus, Sun Ra, or Thelonius Monk in just the right passage. I found myself playing selections from my own collection as I turned the pages.
As a novelist, Peter Morfoot has flow, telling an engaging, straight-forward procedural that links various accoutrements as it pulls you along like an iron bar to a magnet. Crime and mystery readers will consume every last morsel of this book. Captain Paul Darac looks to be an on-going series (this is the 2nd installment), so best to jump onboard now.
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David Cranmer is the publisher and editor of BEAT to a PULP. Latest books from this indie powerhouse include the alternate history novella Leviathan and sci-fi adventure Pale Mars. David lives in New York with his wife and daughter.