Raymond Benson,
Dark Side of the Morgue
(Leisure, 2009)

In this novel, Spike Berenger is a former musician and rock 'n' roll fiend who now runs Rockin' Security, a security agency that specializes in serving the music industry and occasionally does private-eye work. When someone begins killing off the musicians who played in bands in Chicago's progressive-rock scene, Berenger and his partner, Suzanne Prescott, fly from in New York City to investigate.

It seems that in the late 1960s, a Chicago band called The Loop broke up due to internal dissension and split into two bands, Red Skyez and Windy City Engine, neither of which ever hit the big time but managed to build up enough of a following that now, almost 40 years later, the bands can still crank out something of a living playing the clubs. The only problem is that someone is killing off the members of each band. The case is complicated by the fact that the woman doing the killings disappeared in the early '70s and is presumed dead. Dead or alive, though, she's a first-class killer and even goes so far as to inform the potential victims in which order they will be killed.

As Berenger and Prescott try to stop her, they discover that the case turns on a secret that members of the bands have kept for several decades. As they try to crack the secret and therefore the case, the body count rises.

Benson knows his rock -- the details he uses and his hero's level of knowledge is awe-inspiring -- and he knows how to create suspense. He keep the plot moving so that it is only after you finish the book that you realize that a few important events don't ring quite true. Of course, it's a rare mystery whose plot can hold up under close scrutiny, so Benson's lapses don't really become worrisome.

If you're passionate about music -- if you're the type who enjoys debating whether the original title of the album was Dark Side of the Moon or The Dark Side of the Moon -- and you like mysteries, you're going to enjoy Dark Side of the Morgue.

review by
Michael Scott Cain

9 May 2009

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