The best crime books for music lovers

Who am I?

I grew up watching every cop show on the air with my father. I always wanted to be a detective, but one that didn’t have to do a lot of chasing, like Starsky and Hutch, or get beat up a lot, like Mannix—one who could take a laid-back approach and work his own hours, like Ellery Queen. I wound up becoming a forensic specialist who also writes thrillers. The protagonists have my same job, only with smarter criminals and better-looking colleagues. I also grew up playing the clarinet—not, I admit, particularly well—in a band and/or orchestra from the fourth grade until well after I married. 

I wrote...

Red Flags

By Lisa Black,

Book cover of Red Flags

What is my book about?

When D.C. crime scene analyst Ellie Carr is called to investigate the heartrending case of a missing baby, she’s shocked to discover that the child’s mother is her own cousin. Close to Ellie during their impoverished childhoods, Rebecca is now half of a Washington power couple. She and her lobbyist husband, Hunter, live a charmed life in an opulent mansion—until their infant son is taken.

Dr. Rachael Davies from the prestigious Locard Forensic Institute is employed by Hunter to help with the investigation, but what appears to be a simple ransom grab links to a lobbying effort to loosen regulations on a billion-dollar empire of online games for kids. At first antagonists, then allies, Ellie and Rachael must piece together the evidence before the Senate hearing or the missing children will never return.

The books I picked & why

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The Prague Sonata

By Bradford Morrow,

Book cover of The Prague Sonata

Why this book?

A young musicologist (that’s a real word—musicology is the scholarly analysis and research-based study of music from a historic, cultural or systemic approach, as opposed to the study of music performance) is given some pieces of an uncredited but gorgeous sonata and must travel to Prague to figure out who wrote it. Beautifully written with tons of information about music and Prague through WWII, the Velvet Revolution (when the Communist party gave up and left), and life there today. I’d researched the city myself for a book which allowed me to play tour guide when my family visited. It’s #1 on my list of places I want to go back to when I can spend more time.

The Phantom of the Opera

By Gaston LeRoux, Lowell Bair (translator),

Book cover of The Phantom of the Opera

Why this book?

Gaston Leroux was a journalist and writer of detective stories, and may have invented the ‘locked-room mystery.’ This book was first published in 1909 and made a timeless classic by containing all the classic necessities: a damsel in distress, an apparently omnipotent villain who’s not completely a villain because he’s doing it all for love, and the self-contained world of an opera house with its own landscape, populace and rules. All these basic elements are present in the stage show, still my favorite. (Not so much the sequel, Love Never Dies, an abomination never again to be mentioned in polite company.)   

Murder at the Met

By David Black,

Book cover of Murder at the Met

Why this book?

In July of 1980, a beautiful violinist disappeared during a 45-minute break while the visiting ballet company used a prerecorded piece. Helen Hagnes Mintiks was a Julliard grad who had played with professionals since her teens. After the evening’s performance ended, her colleagues knew—as any musician would—that Helen would never have left the building without her violin. It took another nine hours to find her body, thrown down a ventilation shaft, hands tied with knots that stagehands used. A witness led them to the killer, who promptly confessed—a real villain, robbing the world of a kind-hearted talent out of lust. I read this book probably 30 years ago, while I was reading my way through the entire true crime section of the Cleveland Public Library. 

C.B. Greenfield: The Tanglewood Murder

By Lucille Kallen,

Book cover of C.B. Greenfield: The Tanglewood Murder

Why this book?

Lucille Kallen was an amazing TV writer but only wrote five of her cozy mysteries starring small-town, middle-aged reporter Maggie Rome who served as an Archie Goodwin for her cerebral boss, editor C. B. Greenfield. They were all witty and fun, but this one centers around the very real Boston Symphony Orchestra and their summer rehearsal space, Tanglewood music center near the MA-NY border. Expansive hills, the petty rivalries of professionals, and a not-often-used method of murder make this book a must for any mystery lover. Plus, the author was clearly as adoring of Ravel as I am, which is why this slim volume still has a place on my bookshelf after 30-plus years. 

Disgraceland: Musicians Getting Away with Murder and Behaving Very Badly

By Jake Brennan,

Book cover of Disgraceland: Musicians Getting Away with Murder and Behaving Very Badly

Why this book?

A greatly entertaining book about the myriad scandals of Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis, crimes and murder among Norway’s black metal bands, how Sam Cooke wound up shot to death in a low-budget motel, and Gram Parsons’ death at 26, among others, written by the guy with a podcast of the same name. I’ve played and listened to music my entire life but have never really studied the topic or its practitioners, so much of this came as a fascinating surprise. Brennan does veer into fiction—at one point he relates a conversation between two dead people after they’re dead—but still a very interesting compilation. 

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in rock music, murders, and opera?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about rock music, murders, and opera.

Rock Music Explore 116 books about rock music
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Opera Explore 32 books about opera

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Crow's Row, Death at La Fenice, and The Armageddon Rag if you like this list.