JONATHAN VALIN – The Music Lovers. Harry Stoner #10. Delacorte, hardcover, March 1993. Reprint paperback: Dell, April, 1994.


   Harry Stoner is going through a bad patch. He’s middle-aged, his lady is out of town, business is slow, and he’s damned near broke. Then a little man about his age comes in and wants him to recover some stolen records; vinyl, collector-type, that is.

   And he knows who took them, he says – another collector. Harry, needing money, accepts. Needless to say, it gets a lot more complex than it first seemed, and violent – though far from as violent as a typical Harry Stoner tale.

   I really hate to say this, but Music Lovers wasn’t very good at all. Certainly it isn’t the type of book one expects of Valin. He is still a competent prose-smith, and that’s about the best I can find to say.

   Though I did enjoy the bits about record collecting, I never believed the story, and I couldn’t believe in the characters (who lacked any edge, and would have been much more at home in another kind, any other kind, of book) or in their relationships.

   The interplay between a bigot and a black man was in particular excruciatingly false and unbelievable. In this book Stoner was nothing more than a cookie-cutter PI who did stupid and unrealistic things. including withholding the whereabouts of a wanted murderer from the police for the flimsiest of reasons.

   I hope Valin just had one of those days, and hasn’t burned completely out. I’ve heard people who’ve never tried him before say that they enjoyed this; maybe so, but if you’re a Stoner fan already, don’t bother – you’ll be disappointed.

— Reprinted from Ah, Sweet Mysteries #9, September 1993.

      Previously on this blog:

Final Notice (reviewed by Steve Lewis).   A complete listing of the Harry Stoner series follows the review. There was only one more to come after The Music Lovers.