Saturday, July 2, 2016

Murder Mezzo Forte by Donn Taylor

Taylor has crafted a rewarding novel for readers who enjoy clever word play. The allusion to literary works, the (sometimes awful) puns, and the snappy dialog are the crowning features of this mystery.

This is the second novel featuring Preston Barclay. I've not read the first one but really enjoyed this one. He's a professor of history who has music constantly running through his mind. I wasn't familiar with many of the pieces he heard and found the whole concept a bit irritating. He hears less of the music as the novel progresses so that aspect of the novel ended up being tolerable for me.

Another professor has been murdered and Preston is implicated. He sets out to find the real killer, enlisting the aid of another professor. Mara Thorn is a religion professor, a former Wiccan converted to Christianity. It becomes apparent that there are those who do not want Preston and Mara to succeed in their investigation.

Here are a couple of examples of Taylor's writing style. Preston and Mara are talking to an old woman who cannot see well. “...[T]hey call it 'immaculate degeneration' or some such...” (201) Here is the description of the chairman of the math department. “Freda...was a heavy woman of about sixty or so with a personality like a horned frog. She was shaped kind of like one, too.” (17)

I appreciated the development of the characters in the novel, especially Mara. She has a past trauma she needs to conquer. It was good to see her relationship with Preston be a part of that healing.

I like to learn a little something when I read a novel and in this case it was about the academic world. The administration of this private university was always concerned about funding and sometimes that took precedence over academic issues. Preston's daughter was involved in an incident of free speech on another campus so I learned a bit about that too.

This is a decent mystery with a surprise villain at the end. I highly recommend it to those who like characters steeped in literature and music.

I am taking part in a blog tour of this book and you can read other reviews here.

You can read an excerpt here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Donn Taylor is a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Afterwards, he earned a doctorate in Renaissance literature and taught at two liberal arts colleges. He has written several novels and a book of poetry. He lives near Houston, Texas. You can find out more at

Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, 295 pages. You can buy a copy here.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Litfuse for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

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