Emory Crawford is the slightly stodgy, middle-aged wife of Jebbin Crawford, a Twombly College chemistry professor. The regular academic year has just ended and the summer session at the small Illinois town college has not yet started. In this in-between time, the college is hosting the Midwest Anthropological Studies Society’s weeklong conference. The man of the hour at this year’s conference is Archibald Finlay Dawson, who has recently published a book titled The Devil’s Music: Murder and Mayhem in Western Folk Music that has become a nonfiction bestseller. Archie Dawson is also an accomplished fiddle player, and because Emory plays bluegrass music on the fiddle and Jebbin plays the banjo they have been invited to play some “murder tunes” at the opening banquet. Of course, since Archie’s book is about “murder music,” someone decides to murder him. So begins The Devil’s Music by Pearl R. Meaker.
Jebbin’s chemistry expertise includes forensics and he is enlisted as an observer of the forensic tests. Emory’s curiosity involves her in amateur sleuthing; she thinks of herself as a “young Jane Marple.” Written in Emory’s voice, the story meanders through a few scenes, revealing the thinking process of a well-read yet amateur sleuth. Her personal errors in judgment have a natural flow and feel, though there are moments when the reader recognizes them before she does. The primary characters are, in general, well developed, multidimensional, and believable. The college campus and its surroundings are described in enough detail to create a mental image without being overdone. Overall, the flow of the storytelling draws the reader steadily into the story.
On the cover of The Devil’s Music is a header that reads “Emory Crawford Mysteries, Book One.” Clearly, Pearl Meaker plans a series of books with her “young Jane Marple” character. If their story lines flow as smoothly and easily as this one, it will be an enjoyable series to follow.
[signoff predefined=”Social Media Reminder” icon=”facebook”][/signoff]