Reviewed by: BigAl
Approximate word count: 65-70,000 words
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Since retiring from her government job, Tammy L. Grace finally found the time to devote to her lifelong passion for writing. Her works prior to this were the Hometown Harbor romance series. A native of Nevada, Grace now lives in the beautiful San Juan Islands of Washington state.
“When private detective Cooper “Coop” Harrington meets record label mogul Grayson Taylor at a swank gathering of country music artists and politicians he never imagines he’ll be investigating his brutal murder less than twenty-four hours later.
The suspects are plentiful. More than a handful of people could have wanted him dead. Retained by Taylor’s widow, Coop works alongside his best friend and Chief of Detectives, Ben Mason. The investigation leads Coop and Ben to visit the luxurious mansions of recording industry magnates, navigate the murky undercurrents of the political world, and probe complicated family matters. Scandalous indiscretions, secrets, and hints of corruption swirl in the midst of their pursuit of the killer.
Coop’s faithful friend and assistant, Annabelle, and his loyal golden retriever, Gus, both lend a hand during the investigation. Even his Aunt Camille mines the local gossip mill to unearth potential killers with motive. Yet the case seems hopeless until a crucial piece of evidence emerges that sends Coop and Ben on a race to catch the killer before someone else dies.”
What matters most, story or how the story is told? The answer should be obvious, it's the story. Killer Music is a good story. Tammy L. Grace has created a winning set of characters with her private detective, Cooper “Coop” Harrington, and his supporting crew. These include his trusty assistant, Annabelle, who provides office support and helps keep Coop in line when he needs to be reined in. (Although Coop is too dense to realize, the fix for his less-than-stellar love life is right in front of him, while Annabelle patiently waits for him to figure it out.) Coop's Aunt Camille is a Southern Agatha Christie wannabe, always looking for a chance to ferret out whatever clues she can from the gossips among the local society ladies. And I'd be remiss not to mention Coop's trusty sidekick, his dog, Gus.
In this story, Coop is hired by a murder victim’s widow to find the killer. He works closely with his best friend, Ben, who happens to be the chief of detectives for the Nashville Police Department, exchanging information and even continuing the investigation when the police have all but given up and his client has fired him. There are a plethora of potential suspects and the story keeps the reader guessing until the end.
However, the telling of the story also matters. How much is going to vary from reader to reader with what bothers some not even being noticed by others. For me, there were several things that bothered me with the presentation of the story. Some were small, almost insignificant by themselves, like when Coop wagged his tail, something I'd expect from his dog Gus, but not a macho detective like Coop. Or when Ben spooned “the rest of the drink into his mouth” and immediately after they (Coop and Ben) “finished their drinks.” (Didn't Ben already do that?)
Other things bothered me more, for example a large info dump, explaining Coops' history, almost had me tossing the book to the side early on. This was the worst example of a tendency towards telling over showing. It also felt like at times the author gave way more detail than the story required. For example, this explanation of the initial call between Coop and his client:
Coop explained his fee schedule and she agreed to wire funds to him on Monday morning. She also shared what she knew about Gray’s visit to Nashville and that he sent her a text last night telling her he wanted to talk and change some things. She was planning to stay in Bowling Green for at least the next week and gave Coop her contact information. He promised he would check in with her throughout the coming week and told her he would e-mail her an engagement contract for his services.
Why not use dialogue for some of this? (Showing rather than telling.) And how does most of this move the story forward? Does it matter that the client agreed to wire Coop money on Monday or would, “They worked out contractual details” be enough to cover the first and last two sentences of this paragraph? Assuming that much is even needed. The reader doesn't usually care nor does the story need the nitty-gritty business stuff unless something in the specifics is later important to the mystery. All we need to know is she hired Coop and he's on the job. A little in the way of detail is okay for color, but for my tastes, there was way more of these kind of details than needed.
Another thing I found was repetition, specifically in how sentences start. Depending on how and what is repeated, it can be a good thing (emphasizing a point and making it memorable) or grating. The issue I saw time and again here, often related to the too much detail situation discussed above, was sentences that read like lists. He did this. He did that. He then went somewhere. He's boring me to death. He's putting me to sleep. Three or four sentences in a row starting with he, she, or they reads like a list. If the information is needed, say it in a different way.
Only you can decide whether the things that bothered me are going to be an issue for you. If they're a non-issue, the characters and story are good. Give it a read.
The first book in the Cooper Harrington Detective series.
A small number of typos and grammar issues.
Rating: *** Three Stars