Catch the Beat: Fiction

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This is the suggested fiction list for the 2007 Adult Summer Reading Program, Catch the Beat at Forbes Library. There is also a nonfiction list.

The title and author of each novel is followed by a suggested type of music; our 2nd Floor music collection has many wonderful recordings of these musical genres which you can listen to while reading, or generally during the summer.

This list was compiled by Forbes Library staff. The annotations are taken from a variety of sources, including Novelist, ContentCafe, and Amazon.

The Song is You by Megan E. Abbott [1940s pop music]
A noir mystery set in postwar Hollywood, in which a second-rate actress disappears after a liaison with a song-&-dance duo.

Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie [Blues]
The miraculous appearance of blues legend Robert Johnson inspires Spokane Indian Thomas Builds-the-Fire to form an all-Indian Catholic band, and they embark on a magical tour across the nation and deep within their own souls.

Girl, 20: A Novel by Kingsley Amis [Symphonic music]
Life in London means glamour, fashion, finance and art. Consider then an aging conductor, husband in an unsatisfactory marriage, father to an unhappy brood. When a young woman responds to his overtures, he breaks the marriage and bursts the family.

The Gutbucket Quest by Piers Anthony [blues]
Loving the blues and determined to honor them in their truest form, Slim finds himself in the alternate world of Tejas, where the music he cherishes assumes the form of a Strat, sought by the evil T-Bone Pickens who would rechannel the Strat's powers for his own purposes.

Steel Guitar by Linda Barnes [blues]
Several years ago, private eye Carlotta Carlyle's husband, Cal, ran off with Carlotta's college chum, Dee Willis, and now the successful blues singer Willis has asked Carlotta to help her locate the missing Cal.

Too Long at the Dance by Mike Blakely [Country]
In the sequel to Shortgrass Song, cowboy musician Caleb Holcomb and his sidekick, Kinchelo, become embroiled in a family feud, Wyoming's Johnson County War, and an Arapatho uprising as Caleb struggles to win the heart of his brother's widow, Emilia.

The Notorious Dr. August: his real life and crimes by Christopher Bram [Piano]
Covering sixty years, from the American Civil War through the 1920s, a compelling novel follows Augustus Fitzwilliam Boyd, a musician, on his journey through love, race, class, and spirituality.

Singing in the Comeback Choir by Bebe Moore Campbell [female jazz singers]
Called one of the leading black novelists of the twentieth century by The Washington Post, the author of Brothers and Sisters follows a successful producer who tries to revitalize the ghetto of her youth.

Turnip Blues by Helen Campbell [blues: Bessie Smith]
Two elderly women, on a pilgrimage to Bessie Smith's grave, reminisce about their families, friends, and lives.

Songmaster by Orson Scott Card [songs, classical or pop]
The tale of Ansset, a young boy whose perfect singing voice has the power of amplifying people's emotions, making him both a potential healer and destroyer.

Coq Au Vin by Charlotte Carter [Jazz-sax Music]
When street sax player Nanette's mother receives a desperate telegram from Paris from her long-vanished Aunt Vivian, Nanette travels to help her, but upon her arrival, Viv is nowhere to be found--her abandoned suitcase holding clues that date back to an old scam.

Drumsticks by Charlotte Carter [Jazz-sax Music]
Nanette Hayes, a street sax player is back in Manhattan after splitting with her boyfriend. She is determined to drink herself into the ground, but her new voodoo doll gift from a friend is suddenly turning her life around.

I Love The Sound of Breaking Glass by Paul Charles [Paul Simon, ABBA, nick lowe]
Musical references of the pop persuasion dot this tasty first mystery by a noted British rock promoter like raisins in a good rice pudding. Starting with the title (a Nick Lowe song), sounds and quotes (by Don Williams, Paul Simon, ABBA, and Laurie Anderson) follow North London police inspector Christy Kennedy through his investigation of murder and arson in the recording industry.

Loves Music Loves to Dance by Mary Higgins Clark [Ballroom dance]
When Robin probes the disappearance of her close friend, Marcy, a young woman who answers an ad in a magazine "personals" section, she finds herself the prey of a serial killer with a special fetish.

Goodbye Without Leaving by Laurie Colwin [Motown]
Bored housewife Geraldine tries to relive her exciting past as a member of the Shakettes while being adult and responsible. Told with Colwin's usual wit and compassion.

Body and Soul by Frank Conroy [piano]
Claude Rawlings, a poverty-stricken young man, feels stymied by life, until he finds an old piano and embarks on a musical odyssey that takes him into a world of wealth, power, and fame.

Don't the Moon Look Lonesome: A Novel in Blues and Swing by Stanley Crouch [jazz]
As Carla, a upandcoming jazz singer, prepares to wed her saxophonist husband, the tensions created by their interracial relationship come to the fore.

Saks and Violins by Mary Daheim [Violin]
When world-famous musician Dolph Kluger drops dead of rhubarb poisoning during a reception at the Hillside Manor B&B, proprietor Judith McMonigle Flynn launches her own investigation to uncover a killer, but her case is complicated by the theft of her cousin Renie's credit card and disappearance of her violinist neighbor Rudi Wittener's valuable bow.

The Lyre of Orpheus by Robertson Davies [Opera]
Composer Hulda Schnackenburg, priest scholar, and librettist Simon Darcourt, and director Arthur Cornish work to complete E.T.A. Hoffman's unfinished opera.

Mistress of Justice by Jeffrey Deaver [Jazz]
Taylor Lockwood, paralegal and part-time jazz musician, agrees to help Mitchell Reece, a young trial lawyer at the firm where she works, to find a multimillion-dollar promissory note that has been mysteriously stolen from the office.

Cosi Fan Tutti by Michael Dibdin [Opera]
Now commander of Naples's harbor detail, Aurelio Zen tries to help a seductive Neapolitan widow separate her daughters from their possibly Mafia-associated fiances and finds himself mistaken for the head of Naples's most powerful crime family as he investigates a bizarre series of crimes.

Requiem For A Mezzo by Carola Dunn [Solo female singing]
the lead role in Verdi's Requiem drops dead of cyanide poisoning during the performance, the Honorable Daisy Dalrymple joins Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Alex Fletcher in searching for the killer among a multitude of possible suspects.

Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett [16th century songs]
Music is only one of the talents of Scottish nobleman Francis Crawford, in this tale set in Renaissance Scotland and England. The first of a hugely popular series of six books (see next entry), this reads like a cross between historical novels and James Bond. One of the major questions of this first volume is whether Crawford is the good guy, the bad guy, or a bit of both.

Queen's Play by Dorothy Dunnett [16th century songs]
Francis Crawford becomes a hit in the French court as a minstrel and wit. His real job: to spy out threats to the young Mary Stuart, and protect her from the vicious intrigues of the court.

Killer Diller by Clyde Edgerton [Gospel]
In the town of Listre, North Carolina, the orphan Wesley--known for his penchant for "borrowing" cars--takes up bricklaying, music, and preaching, in this novel of the contemporary South.

Show Boat by Edna Ferber [the musical Show Boat]
This saga about three generations of a theatrical family and their lives centered on a showboat on the Mississippi River circuit was made into one of the most successful musicals of all time.

Buried in Quilts by Sara Hoskinson Frommer [Orchestral]
Joan Spencer, the busy manager of the Civic Symphony of Oliver, Indiana, whose estranged daughter has just returned to town, gets involved in a new mystery as old Edna Ellett dies and one of her many greedy will-seeking relatives is murdered.

The Best of Jackson Payne by Jack Fuller [Jazz/Saxophone] Musicologist Charles Quinlan embarks on a journey into the unexpected when he begins to research a biography of African-American saxophone legend Jackson Payne.

Jass by David Fulmer [Jazz]
In the wake of four musicians' murders, Creole detective Valentin St. Cyr discovers that the only surviving member of their band has gone into hiding and suspects that a shadowy woman is the key to solving the mystery, which is complicated by local authorities who want him off the case.

Maestro by John Gardner [Ochestral]
Former SIS agent-runner Herbie Kruger and attractive SIS agent Pucky Curtiss interrogate Maestro Louis Passau, an orchestra conductor who has been accused of spying for Hitler and aiding the KGB, eliciting an extraordinary portrait of a brilliant but flawed man.

Idoru by William Gibson [Japanese Punk/Rock]
The author of such "cyberpunk" novels as the award-winning Neuromancer presents a story set in twenty-first-century Tokyo, where a singer pursues a beautiful media superstar--called an idoru--who does not really exist.

Piano Man by Noreen Gilpatrick [piano concertos]
Muder with a piano string, descriptive sympathetic characters, and subplots leading you astray make this slowly developing suspense a must read.

Murder in E Minor by Robert Goldsborough [New York Symphony]
An expert on Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe faithfully recreates the legendary, eccentric sleuth and his debonair assistant, Archie Goodwin, in a new mystery involving a series of threatening notes, sent to Milan Stevens, a world-famous conductor.

Save the Last Dance For Me by Edward Gorman [Gospel hymns]
When the Reverend John Muldaur, who has been stirring up the town with anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic circulars, is murdered, Judge Esme Whitney enlists the help of Sam McCain, a struggling lawyer and occasional sleuth, to catch a killer.

The Weaver and the Factory Maid by Deborah Grabien [British Folk Music]
Coming into ownership of a restored eighteenth-century cottage, British folk musician Ringan Laine discovers that the property is haunted and is assisted by long-time girlfriend Penny in researching the identities of his otherworldly tenants.

Murder Duet by Batya Gur [Classical Music]
Israeli policeman and lover of classical music Michael Ohayon attempts to track down the murderer of two musicians, the brother and father of a friend of Ohayon, who has a sheet of music as the only clue to the motive

Fever Season by Barbara Hambly [New Orleans Music]
When Benjamin January, musician, agrees to carry a message from a runaway slave during a cholera epidemic in 1833, he becomes entangled in a web of lies and murder.

A Free Man of Color by Barbara Hambly [New Orleans Music]
In 1830s New Orleans, Benjamin January, a Creole musician, becomes caught in a web of murder and betrayal, but as the proud and unflinching January fights to clear his name, he must defy the prejudices of a crumbling society.

Blood Lines by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles [Classical]
When a famous music critic is found dead, Detective Inspector Bill Slider is called in to investigate the crime, but as the case drags on, Slider realizes he must solve it before the murderer strikes again

Grave Music by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles [Violin]
Estranged lovers Inspector Bill Slider and violinist Joanna are thrown together when Joanna's conductor is shot while rehearsing for a forthcoming concert, and Slider discovers that the victim had many enemies.

Orchestrated Death by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles [violin Music]
Inspector Bill Slider struggles to find clues and a motive to the murder of a quiet violinist, while his home life runs amuck as he tries to choose between his wife and an exciting new love.

The Beethoven Conspiracy by Thomas Hauser [Beethoven]
In the murders of three New York musicians--and the threatening of a fourth, Judith Darr--New York City cop Richard Marritt's only clue is the name Beethoven scrawled by one of the victims

Rookery Blues by Jon Hassler [Jazz]
Struggling with their isolated lives at the state college in 1969 Rookery, Minnesota, a small group of people--including professor Leland Edwards, unkempt novelist Neil Novotny, and lovely Peggy Benoit--forms a jazz group known as the Icejam Quintet.

All the Lucky Ones Are Dead by Gar Anthony Haywood [Rap Music]
The apparent suicide of a rap star draws private investigator Aaron Gunner into a dangerous investigation that also involves an ultraconservative talk show host and a mysterious silver car that seems to be following him everywhere.

Antonietta by John Hersey [Violin]
Follows the odyssey of a Stradivarius violin from its creation in 1699, through its impact on musicians and composers as diverse as Mozart, Berlioz, and Stravinsky, to its purchase in 1990 by a tone-deaf financier.

The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos [Salsa]
Cesar and Nestor Castillo--two very different Cuban brothers--recall their heyday in 1950s New York, when they led an orchestra, were known as "the Mambo Kings," and appeared on the "I Love Lucy" show.

The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro [Piano]
Arriving in an European city with significant gaps in his memory, Ryder, a renowned pianist, is overwhelmed by an onslaught of strangers who seem to know him and of whom he has vague, dreamlike recollections.

Man With an Axe'' by Jon A. Jackson [Jazz]
When a headless body is discovered and a young boy arrives bearing a disturbing message, Detective Sergeant "Fang" Mulheisen must search for answers in jazz history, police archives, and his mentor's personal journals, and as he gets closer to the truth, the mafia becomes determined to stop him.

Funeral Music by Morag Joss [Cello]
Seeking refuge and solace in Bath, England, Sara Selkirk, a world-class cellist, is forced into the unexpected role of sleuth when the director of the local museum turns up dead in the famed Roman Baths.

C.B. Greenfield: The Tanglewood Murder by Lucille Kallen [Ravel; Prokofiev]
Newspaper editor Greenfield and his chief reporter become entangled in murder at Tanglewood. This is the first of a popular series.

Honky Tonk Kat by Karen Kijewski [Country]
At the request of her old friend Dakota Jones, a country music superstar, Kat Colorado searches for a dangerous stalker whose pranks have escalated from threatening letters to violence and murder.

Kill Me Tender by Daniel Klein [Elvis]
After many of his fan club presidents are found dead, Elvis Presley suspects foul play and sets out to find the killer.

The Memorial Hall Murder by Jane Langton [Handel’s Messiah]
Students at Harvard try to find their beloved missing professor. Many hilarious scenes as they rehearse Handel's Messiah and try to solve the mystery.

The Shortest Day: Murder at the Revels by Jane Langton [Christmas carols]
In the midst of the traditional Christmas Revels in Cambridge, the jealous husband of an attractive stage director turns the pageantry into an unhappy affair, bringing Homer Kelly to the scene in his eleventh case.

The Small Rain by Madeleine L'Engle [Piano]
Portrays the events of Katherine Forrester Vigneras's early life and reveals her struggle to cope with the tragic death of her mother, while pursuing her goal to become a concert pianist.

A Severed Wasp by Madeleine L'Engle [piano]
Pianist Katherine Forrester Vigneras, in her seventies and retired, discovers new meaning in life when she agrees to give a benefit concert at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, in New York.

Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon [Opera]
When renowned opera conductor Helmut Wellauer is found dead in his dressing room, the victim of cyanide poisoning, Guido Brunetti, the Vice Commissario of the Venice police, must sift through several suspects.

Be Cool by Elmore Leonard [Spice Girls]
The author of the New York Times best-seller, Cuba Libre, plunges Chili Palmer, the erstwhile hero of his hit novel, Get Shorty, into the seediest, most dangerous corners of Hollywood's music business.

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux [Opera]
Under the Paris Opera House lives a disfigured musical genius who uses music to win the love of a beautiful opera singer.

Singing in the Shrouds by Ngaio Marsh [Gounod's Faust]
A cozy mystery involving cruise ships and serial murders.

Dragonsinger by Anne McCaffrey [Celtic harp]
Menolly flees her home, because she is not permitted to make music there, and is taken by the Masterharper himself to Harpershall, where she learns that only her own self-doubt stands in her way.

The Plain old Man by Charlotte MacLeod [Gilbert & Sullivan's "The Sorcerer"]
When her Aunt Emma's production of Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Sorcerer" leads to murder and the disappearance of the Romney ancestral portrait, Sarah Kelling Bittersohn undertakes an investigation.

Songcatcher by Sharyn McCrumb [Folk Music]
Folksinger Lark McCourry retraces the history of a family song, which she had heard from her North Carolina relatives as a child, back to eighteenth-century Scotland to young Malcolm MacQuarry.

If ever I return pretty Peggy-O by Sharyn McCrumb [Folk]
Sheriff Spencer Arrowood investigates the threatening messages being sent to Peggy Muryan, a famous folksinger of the 1960s, who has returned to her hometown of Hamelin, Tennessee, in search of peace and quiet.

Fall On Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald [jazz music]
Spanning five generations and moving from Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, to the bleak landscape of World War I, and to the emerging jazz scene in New York City, this epic tale tells the story of four sisters.

Dancing at the Harvest Moon by KC Mckinnon [1960s dance music]
An illustrated novel in the vein of The Bridges of Madison County follows a middle-aged woman who returns to the lakeside Canadian town where she had left her first love for another man.

The Wild Rose by Doris Mortman [Classical]
Determined to realize the dream her father never could--to have a successful career in music--Katalin Gaspar travels through New York, Washington, and Kentucky and searches for the love who was separated from her when the Soviets entered Budapest in 1956.

RL's Dream by Walter Mosley [Blues]
Recounting his memories to a young white woman who is also a refugee from a painful Southern past, Soupspoon Wise, a dying blues performer, describes a brief encounter with a famous performer that still haunts him.

Interrupted Aria by Beverle Graves Myers [early Italian opera]
Returning to Venice in 1731, Tito, who was mutilated as a boy to preserve his exceptional soprano voice, finds his opera premier shattered by the murder of a close friend and the subsequent arrest of another, and conducts his own investigation that reveals the shocking secrets of his own family and friends.

Cruel Music by Beverle Graves Myers [early Italian opera]
The impending death of a pope sparks a web peril, intrigue, greed, and murder for Tito Amato and his family when his merchant brother Alessandro is imprisoned on a trumped-up smuggling charge thanks to a senator who is willing to do anything to ensure that a Venetian will sit on the Throne of St. Peter after the upcoming papal election, in a mystery set in eighteenth-century Venice.

Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian [classical chamber music]
Captain Jack Aubrey and his friend Stephen Maturin play chamber music in the rare quiet moments during their adventures, which begin in this book during a recital. This series became a big crossover success, reach far beyond the usual audience for naval adventure books due to good writing, sympathetic characters, and a great depiction of the life of the Napoleonic era.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett [Opera]
When terrorists seize hostages at an embassy party, an unlikely assortment of people are thrown together. A marvelous novel of love, opera, and terrorism set in South America. Two couples, complete opposites, fall in love; sexual identities become confused; and a horrific imprisonment is transformed into an unexpected heaven on earth.

A Chorus of Detectives by Barbara Paul [Choral]
Enrico Caruso and Geraldine Farrar battle against a calculating murderer who is systematically eliminating members of the chorus just before or during the evening's performance.

Death Notes by Ruth Rendell [Classical]
Sir Manuel Camargue, yesterday one of the most celebrated musicians of his time, today floats face down in the lake near his sprawling English country house. The consensus is accidental death -- but Inspector Wexford knows the stench of murder most foul when he smells it.

Cry to Heaven by Anne Rice [Opera and Oratorios]
Eighteenth-century Naples provides the setting for the pain, fears, resentments, desires, and triumphs of peasant-born Guido Maffeo and patrician-born Tonio Treschi, two castrati--mentor and angel-voiced student--who strive passionately to live full lives.

Violin by Anne Rice [Violin concertos]
Triana, a beautiful young woman who dreams of becoming a great musician, falls prey to the demonic Stefan, the tormented ghost of a Russian aristocrat, who seduces and manipulates her, drawing her into the dark side of her own nature and then into the cruel past.

The Ground Beneath Her Feet by Salman Rushdie [Rock]
Photographer Rai narrates the epic romance between his childhood friend, Ormus Cama, and singer Vina Apsara, Rai's sometime lover, revealing--with wisdom and humor--a world of passions, truths, death, and rock 'n' roll.

The Soloist by Mark Salzman [Cello]
Renne Sundheimer, a thirty-six-year-old former cello prodigy, instructs a young Korean cellist, serves on a jury with a beautiful woman named Maria-Theresa, and finds romance and a renewed sense of purpose.

I Still Miss My Man But My Aim is Getting Better by Sarah Shankman [Country]
Finishing her waitressing shift and preparing for Songwriters' Night at the local country music club, promising singer Shelby Kay Tate becomes the unknowing target of an obsessive stalker.

Blue Bossa by Bart Schneider [Jazz]
Set against the backdrop of Patty Hearst's kidnapping in 1970s San Francisco, Ronnie Reboulet, a former jazz trumpet star and emotionally troubled man, strives to live a life void of drugs and relies on the companionship of his daughter and his soulmate to make the comeback of a lifetime.

An Equal Music by Vikram Seth [piano]
Years after separating, gifted musician Michael Holme is reunited with his former lover, talented pianist Julia McNicholl, during a musical tour of Vienna, unaware that she is hiding her increasing deafness, and together they must confront their feelingsfor each other and the music that brought them together.

Death Comes Staccato by Glillian Slovo [Violin]
Private investigator Kate Baeier is hired by wealthy Mrs. Weatherby to watch over her daughter Kate, a spoiled brat and a brilliant musician, and finds herself caught up in a dangerous web of intrigue and mystery.

Trouble Comes Back by Keith Snyder [Rock]
Jason Keltner and his buddies, Martin and Robert, try to protect the daughter of a burned-out rock legend from being kidnapped.

A Knife at the Opera by Susannah Stacey [Opera]
A rare evening off for Superintendent Bone occasions another murder mystery when Miss Fairlie, a teacher at his daughter's school, is found murdered during the performance of a play.

Death of a Baritone by Karen Sturges [Opera]
Phoebe is thrilled to have her first paying gig at a posh summer opera colony in the Hamptons, but when the baritone keels over and the investigation bogs down with a tricky suspect, the world-weary sleuth is the only one who can hit the high notes.

Death of a Pooh-Bah by Karen Sturges [Gilbert & Sullivan]
In the sequel to Death of a Baritone, an invitation from a long-lost aunt takes musician Phoebe Mullins to Northampton, Massachusetts, where she takes on the job of stage manager for a community production of The Mikado, but the murder of the pompous actor playing Lord Pooh-Bah soon forces Phoebe to draw on all her sleuthing skills to find a killer.

Happy Never After by Kathy Hogan Trocheck [Rock]
Atlanta's most inquisitive cleaning lady is called upon to defend her favorite childhood rock group when one of its surviving members publicly threatens a former producer just before the latter is shot to death.

The Song Reader by Lisa Tucker [Pop songs]
Orphaned sisters Leeann and Mary Beth live in a small town with Leeann attending high school and Mary Beth working two jobs, until Mary Beth's special gift for helping people with their problems uncovers their family's dark secret.

The Music Lovers'' by Jonathan Valin [Orchestral]
Hired to find thirty-five rare records, stolen from Leon Tubin's collection, Harry Stoner finds his job complicated when Leon is brutally beaten and his girlfriend is kidnapped.

Baby, Would I Lie? by Donald Westlake [Country]
Wishing to escape tabloid journalism, Sara Joslyn is disgusted when her new editor gives her a story involving a gory sex-murder trial, until she learns that a country singer, known to her, may be involved.

Category: Reading Lists

Page last changed: September 29, 2012, at 07:51 AM EST.