Monday, May 28, 2012


Ed Gorman’s The Day the Music died took me back to high school days.

The Day the Music Died starts on February 3, 1959, the day Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, The Big Bopper, and their pilot Roger Peterson died in a weather-caused airplane accident. They were flying from Clear Lake, Iowa, to another stop on their Winter Dance Party tour in Moorhead, Minnesota.

That same night there was a murder-suicide in Black River Falls, Iowa.

Sam McCain investigates the crime. Lawyer-investigator McCain works for Judge Esme Anne Whitney, one of the two power brokers in Black River Falls. Whitney’s black sheep son apparently murdered his wife and then killed himself.

The whole story involves small town intrigue. Two power groups in Black River Falls, Whitney’s and the local sheriff’s, face off against one another. McCain finds himself caught in the middle.

Also, the love match-ups don’t match up. McCain loves a young lady who is determined to marry someone else. And another very nice young lady loves Sam McCain.

All this may seem contrived, and in a way it is, but still I enjoyed what I read.

This story has many ins and outs. For me, the best thing about it was the 1950s detail. Gorman mentioned so many things I remember.

Gorman wrote about Midwestern prejudice in 1950s small towns. He also wrote about backroom abortion and other social issues. Many of those issues still resonate today.

Don’t get me wrong. The Day the Music Died is more than setting. This is a good, intricate murder mystery with a surprising ending. It was both light and serious. The story reflects the complex ins-and-outs of a small town.

This is the second of Ed Gorman’s Sam McCain mysteries I’ve read. I plan to read more.


pattinase (abbott) said...

A wonderful writer. You can feel his beating heart in every word.

Joe Barone said...

He certainly brought back the 50s in a smaller town for me.