Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Rhapsody in Red

Donn Taylor’s Rhapsody in Red doesn’t exactly fit my “debut novel” theme, but it’s close, in that it is author Taylor’s first novel for a prominent publisher. Rhapsody in Red is a mystery filled with suspense and laced with humor. The protagonist, Preston Barclay, is a history professor at a small college that has morphed from a Christian institution to a secular one in order to draw more students. “Press” Barclay’s wry comments on college faculty infighting will bring a smile to the reader’s lips even as they’re racing through the story.

Rhapsody in Red has all the outer accouterments to cause browsers to select this novel from among others on the shelf. The cover is bright red, with a black stiletto (the shoe, not the dagger) above the title. Back cover copy reads, “That Wednesday, two weeks before Thanksgiving, was a bad day to find a corpse on campus.” But what really drew me in was the introduction of the secondary character, Mara Thorn, as the Wiccan head of the department of religious studies. That addition gives the story an additional twist. Press and Mara have the misfortune to discover the murdered body of a dead colleague, and the further misfortune of being the primary suspects of the crime.

The story takes off at a run from that point, and doesn’t slow down until the surprising conclusion. Every time I told myself I’d read to the end of a chapter, then put the book down, I found myself saying, “Well, one more chapter, then I’ll stop.” Donn Taylor added several dimensions to this novel, which in my opinion, raise it above the average mystery. His protagonist, Press Barclay, suffers from musical hallucinations, so many scenes are enlivened by Barclay’s description of the melodies that are haunting his mind. Taylor cleverly sets the mood for much of the action in Rhapsody in Red by describing the instruments playing in Press’s head. Further, Taylor’s droll sense of humor, especially when directed at the faculty of the university where his protagonist is employed, will cause the reader to snicker even while his heart pounds with the suspense that Taylor so adroitly weaves into each chapter.

Rhapsody in Red rates high on my recommended list. I hope Taylor is hard at work on a sequel!

1 comment:

  1. I have this book and it is on my TBR stack. Everytime I read about it on a blog, I just want to run in there (forget that I'm in the middle of another book) and start reading!
    Pam W