A well-written murder mystery is like an orchestra playing George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue or Ella Fitzgerald singing “It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)” with her jazz band. All the musicians play their parts together, just as all the people in the mystery enact their roles. Certain instruments get featured at different points, much like different suspects seeming more or less likely to have committed the deed, before fading back into the rest of the band. The conductor leads them all, one step ahead, just as a detective (sometimes) leads all the musicians together. And usually, the music swells to a beautiful conclusion, just as the mystery comes together with an elegant solution.
To celebrate the rhythm and harmony of a well-crafted mystery, here is a list of six mysteries/thrillers featuring music and musicians from classical music to rock and roll.
The Violin Conspiracy
It was the break aspiring Black violinist Ray McMillian needed. No one believes McMillian can make it, even his own mother. But what everyone thought was a family heirloom with only sentimental value turns out to be a Stradivarius.
Armed with this priceless violin, McMillian starts to find the success that long eluded him, but when the violin goes missing just before the international Tchaikovsky Competition, he learns that his family may not have the only claim to the instrument, including the descendants of the family who enslaved his family generations before. Can he recover the violin and find his place in the classical music world?
My Father's House
In this riveting tale, based on a true story, Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty is walking a thin line between what he thinks is right and his duties and responsibility at the Vatican during World War II. He leads a group called the Choir that helps refugees and prisoners of war escape Rome and prison camps.
The Choir is both figurative and literal; they meet during choir practice to plan their missions, using the music as a cover. But a wrong note can ruin it all; an SS officer is dead set on capturing Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty.
Taking inspiration from the world of music, the book is told from different points of view from the various members of the Choir to even the SS Officer. It’s the first book in a planned trilogy about the members of the Choir.
Murder in G Major
The first in this delightful cozy series, Black violinist Gethsemane Brown needs a break. Things have gone wrong for her professional career so she decides to take a job to lead an orchestra at a boy’s school in a remote village in Ireland. Plus she gets to live in a picturesque cabin.
But getting the orchestra back into shape is not her only challenge. She’s not alone in her cabin…the ghost of the composer Eamon who lived in the cabin comes out of the woodwork and asks her to clear his name from the murder of his wife (and his supposed suicide). Determined to make this job work and fulfill her promise to this ethereal being, Brown sets out to try to solve a decades-long murder. It’s the first of six books.
Vinyl Resting Place
After making a life away from her hometown, Juni Jessup has returned to Cedar River, Texas, to open a record shop and caf named Sip & Spin Records with her sisters. But the night of their big opening, a woman’s body is found in a supply closet—and the cops think their uncle is responsible. Jessup decides to take a spin at solving the murder and clearing her uncle’s name.
Add in a deep love of records and punny coffee drinks, this is one hit you don’t want to miss. Book two, A Fatal Groove, comes out later this year.
Miss Aldridge Regrets
Just published in paperback, this one is for the jazz lovers. Lena Aldridge had promise as a singer but somehow she found herself on the run from England after a murder happened at the club she worked at. Luckily, she’s running towards an exciting opportunity in New York City. But instead of maintaining a low profile, she has to do the opposite on the ship to help her new career, according to her new patron.
She ends up befriending a peculiar wealthy family but things take a sour note when one of the family members is killed…much like the murder at her former club. Can she escape this danger following her? What role did she play in the death at the club? It’s the first in the Canary Club Mystery series with book two, Harlem After Midnight, due out later this year.
Ungrateful Dead: Murder at the Fillmore
Who knew that music reporting could be so deadly? Rennie Stride realized she made a mistake marrying her husband and has run to San Francisco to pursue her career in journalism. After all, it’s the height of Haight and Ashbury in the 1960s. But when her friend and rockstar, Prax McKenna gets accused of murder and other crimes, Stride has to use her well-honed investigation skills to get her friend out of trouble.
Bonus: Patricia Morrison is the wife of Jim Morrison—yes, that one. It’s the first in four books in the series.