The Music Of Love
by Courtni Wright, contemporary (2003)
Arabesque, $5.99, ISBN 1-58314-268-1

This is a sequel to A Charmed Love. By sequel, I mean that the main characters of the two books are the same: cops Det Denise Dory and her long-time partner and love Tom Phyfer. Like A Charmed Love, The Music Of Love is a perplexing yet unintentionally amusing "romantic suspense/police procedural" story that is as corny and whacked as dancing and singing magic maize cobs. I don't know what to say: both books have virtually the same premise, the villains have the same modus operandi, and the revelation of the villain - don't get me started. This book makes the Hardy Boys look like Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson. And that's why this book is so amusing.

If the last book has a villain killing fashion designers, this time a villain is killing musicians and singers. And yes, the villain is still sending stalkerish "hints" to Denise. Denise is agonizing over Tom getting promoted and transferred somewhere else, because she's a spineless and codependent woman ("Excuse me - independent and strong-willed!" - or so says the author) that way. Denise visits the coroner. Denise interviews suspects. Denise cooks for Tom. Tom makes jokes. Tom worries about whether he can protect his woman. And so the story goes, muddling around until the villain gets fed up of waiting for these two to catch him.

I'm sure Ms Wright would have done her research while writing this book, but seriously, Denise and Tom will be more realistic if they are private investigators rather than cops. That or the Washington DC police HQ is like a donut and Burger King hangout for dark blues. Denise can go about doing anything she wants without worrying about paperwork and protocol. Apparently she handles only one case at a time, and as for Tom, to be honest he seems to be using the police station like some sort of leisure hangout. In a more relaxed setting, say, in a private investigation firm, Denise and Tom's quasi-9-to-5 routines may make more sense.

The characters also display a perplexing lack of urgency in solving the case even as the bodies pile up in the coroner's office. My favorite moment is when Denise, after studying a missive the killer sends her, decides to call it a day and wait until tomorrow for more clues to reach her. And so she goes home to make dinner for Tom. Since "waiting for more clues" in this case translates to "waiting for another dead body to show up", I don't know whether to laugh or to groan over Denise's treating this case like some tedious paperwork the boss made her do. Okay, let's not even question why only Denise is assigned solo to what is clearly a case of a killer on a rampage (Tom helps in an unofficial capacity, and I don't even want to ask whether cops are allowed to do this) - let's instead wonder just what kind of people the Washington DC Police Department is hiring if their cops would rather go home and make dinner while waiting for dead bodies to pile up instead of calling forensics for immediate assistance. As for Tom, when he's confronted with a dead body, he elicits no curiosity, no emotion, except maybe disdain for the dead fellow's taste in music.

I guess readers expecting a sober and accurate police thriller will be using this book to make a bonfire in the yard. However, there are plenty of campy moments to enjoy. The running joke of Tom eating poisoned food stuff in every case he gets involved in is actually pretty funny. Sometimes, in the few lucid moments of The Music Of Love, the banters between Denise and Tom are actually very good. Of course, one can't overlook the comedy that stems from the really amateurish way both the Washington DC Police Department and the killer are operating in this story. I finish this book with this impression that Tom and Denise are actually decent characters if we're talking about a sitcom, but really, I hope cops and villains have more brainpower and sense than that displayed by their fictitious counterparts in this book.

By giving me this impression that the author really has no idea of what she is writing about in this book, The Music Of Love is a readable and often comedic book. Alas, two-thirds of the fun from this book stems from me laughing most heartily at the author's plot blunders. As the romance novel equivalent of a blooper montage, this book will be more than acceptable. As a "serious" book though, ah, now that's a different story entirely.

Rating: 73

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