Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Merry Band of Murderers

A Merry Band of Murderers is more than a compilation of short mystery stories from some of the genre's finest writers. It is also an exploration of music. Conceived by Claudia Bishop and Don Bruns, the collection is staged in two acts: first, a non-fiction discussion of short stories, mysteries, and music; and second, a compilation of musical short mysteries.   There are thirteen music-centered stories from authors Mary Anna Evans, Jim Fusilli, Bill Moody, Rupert Holmes, Rhys Bowen, John Lescroart, Nathan Walpow, Peter Robinson, Jeffery Deaver, Tom Corcoran , Val McDermid, and, of course, the editors themselves. Each story is accompanied by a short introduction, song lyrics, and an interview with the writer.

This collection of short stories would have been filed under "mediocre" were it not for two standouts: "Something Out There" by John Lescroart - a classic woman-home-alone story that makes you want to scream at the page "Run!  Get out of the house!" - and "Shuffle Off This Mortal Coil" by Rupert Holmes.

Picture if you will...a man with too much free time, no friends and a new iPod.  As you follow his story in "Shuffle Off This Mortal Coil" you will begin to feel that you have now crossed over into ... the Twilight Zone [cue music]. 

Our un-named hero, recently unemployed, buys an iPod and spends a week converting his extensive vintage music library into digital files.  Once the project is complete, he inserts the ear-buds, selects "shuffle mode" - in which the iPod makes musical choices for him - and enters....the Twilight Zone.  Over the next few days he begins to walk in time to the music, then to believe that the iPod is trying to communicate with him through song titles.  Within a week he has given the iPod a name and counts on "Sonny" (named after Sonny Bono) to set his agenda - where to go, when to sleep, what to purchase, even the woman he dates - until he can no longer make a choice without consulting Sonny - until Sonny directs him to kill.

The audio version I downloaded did not come with the music cd which accompanies the printed book, but I don't think it would have added much.  The book is worth picking up, even if you only read these two entries.

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