The best crime books for music lovers

Why am I passionate about this?

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.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Prague Sonata

Lisa Black Why did I love 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.

By Bradford Morrow,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Prague Sonata as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Twining music history with the political tumults of the 20th century, The Prague Sonata is a sophisticated, engrossing intellectual mystery.”—The Wall Street Journal  

Music and war, war and music—these are the twin motifs around which Bradford Morrow, recipient of the Academy Award in Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, has composed his magnum opus, a novel more than a dozen years in the making.

In the early days of the new millennium, pages of a worn and weathered original sonata manuscript—the gift of a Czech immigrant living out her final days in Queens—come into the hands of…


Book cover of The Phantom of the Opera

Lisa Black Why did I love 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.)   

By Gaston LeRoux, Lowell Bair (translator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Phantom of the Opera as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The novel from the early 20th century that inspired the Lon Chaney film and the hit musical. In the 1880s, in Paris, the Palais Garnier Opera House is believed haunted. One night, a young woman, Christine, is asked to sing in place of the Opera's leading soprano, who is ill; Christine's performance is a success, and she is recognized by the Vicomte Raoul, a childhood playmate and love. Raoul and the Phantom then battle for Christine's heart, as the Phantom demands more and more from her.


Book cover of Murder at the Met

Lisa Black Why did I love 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. 

By David Black,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Murder at the Met as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The inside story, written with the cooperation of the detectives involved, of the investigation into the murder of a young violinist


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

Lisa Black Why did I love 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. 

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

Lisa Black Why did I love 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. 

By Jake Brennan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Disgraceland as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the creator of the popular rock 'n' roll true crime podcast, Disgraceland comes an off-kilter, hysterical, at times macabre book inspired by true stories from the highly entertaining underbelly of music history.
You may know Jerry Lee Lewis married his thirteen-year-old cousin but did you know he shot his bass player in the chest with a shotgun or that a couple of his wives died under extremely mysterious circumstances? Or that Sam Cooke was shot dead in a seedy motel after barging into the manager's office naked to attack her? Maybe not. Would it change your view of him…


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Feral Maril & Her Little Brother Carol

By Leslie Tall Manning,

Book cover of Feral Maril & Her Little Brother Carol

Leslie Tall Manning Author Of Maggie's Dream

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Mentor Laugher Research nut Avid reader

Leslie's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Winner of the Literary Titan Book Award

Bright but unassuming Marilyn Jones has some grown-up decisions to make, especially after Mama goes to prison for drugs and larceny. With no one to take care of them, Marilyn and her younger, mentally challenged brother, Carol, get tossed into the foster care system. While shuffling from one home to another, Marilyn makes it her mission to find the Tan Man, a mysterious man from her babyhood she believes holds the key to her family’s happiness.

But Marilyn’s quest is halted when her daddy, an ex-con she has never met, is chosen by…

Feral Maril & Her Little Brother Carol

By Leslie Tall Manning,

What is this book about?

Bright but unassuming Marilyn Jones has some grown-up decisions to make, especially after Mama goes to prison for drugs and larceny. With no one to take care of them, Marilyn and her younger, mentally challenged brother, Carol, get tossed into the foster care system. While shuffling from one home to another, Marilyn makes it her mission to find the Tan Man, a mysterious man from her babyhood she believes holds the key to her family's happiness.

But Marilyn's quest is halted when her daddy, an ex-con she has never met, is chosen by the courts as the new guardian. Caleb…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in rock music, murder, and murder mystery?

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