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Swing: A Mystery    by Rupert Holmes order for
by Rupert Holmes
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2005 (2005)
* * *   Reviewed by Melissa Parcel

Ray Sherwood, a talented jazz musician traveling the nation with Jack Donovan and His Orchestra, stays on the road in an attempt to outrun the heartache from his past. Arriving in San Francisco in September 1940, the orchestra's engagement coincides with the Golden Gate International Exposition, held on the man-made Treasure Island located below the famous Golden Gate Bridge. The World's Fair supplies more than just spectacular exhibits. It is also the backdrop for intrigue and murder.

Ray receives a note at his hotel asking him to meet a woman named Gail at an Exhibition café to discuss a business proposition. Sufficiently intrigued, Ray arrives a bit early and is accosted by a French woman seeking a husband. After his meeting with Gail, Ray witnesses the same French woman plunge to her death from the Tower of the Sun. At first, it's ruled a suicide, but as Ray gets more deeply involved with Gail and her friends and family, he uncovers unsettling things that turn out to be more dangerous than he can imagine.

This novel takes a fantastic peek into the world of a jazz musician in the 1940s. Ray is an endearing character with plenty of flaws, yet vulnerable and smart. The way he puzzles out the mystery is inspiring. The descriptions and pictures of the San Francisco World's Fair piqued my interest and caused me to want to read more about the true event that serves as a backdrop for this fictional tale. The supporting characters are richly drawn and add harmony to the main melody of the storyline.

A CD of the music is included to enhance the reader's enjoyment of the story. The CD contains 'extra musical clues' but does not give any of the mystery away if enjoyed apart from the book. A friend of mine listened to the CD before reading the book and found some of it strange, so I recommend experiencing it while reading. It's not crucial to listen in order to understand the book, but it greatly strengthens the impact of the climax and unveiling of the mystery.

Rupert Holmes is an award-winning author and composer. His talent shines here, both in the music and the highly original plot. The action is fast-paced and the musical discussion is complex enough to please even the most educated reader, yet sufficiently detailed enough for those with no musical background. Swing is a wonderful book to lose yourself in for a few hours or days, one that will stay with you for a long time.

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