Review: CRIME SONG by David Swinson (Mulholland)

swinsond-crimesongusFrank Marr is back!

Marr, a retired D.C. police detective working as a private eye for a defense attorney, has a serious problem. He is secretly a drug addict, and his long-time supply of cocaine is about to run out.

While staking out an upscale nightclub in an attempt to target the stash-houses of dealers from whom to steal for his fix, he settles on a target: a young college student. After a long night in pursuit of his quarry, Marr returns home to find he has been burglarized. Though his drugs are safe, several items are missing: his .38 revolver and his cherished music collection (with dozens of albums belonging to his deceased mother.) Marr immediately begins investigating the crime himself.

But when the dealer Marr had been following is stabbed to death in his own fortified home, Frank is certain that the burglary and murder are related. With good cops, bad cops, and exceptionally dangerous drug lords on his tail, Frank is determined to find out the truth, even if it kills him. This time, it just might.

I started reading Crime Song only a few hours after finishing The Second Girl, Swinson’s superb first Frank Marr novel. I’m very happy to report that Crime Song is yet another excellent crime novel, easily cementing Swinson among the ranks of favourite crime/thriller authors. This is a must-read series.

Crime Song picks up pretty soon after the end of The Second Girl. It’s probably not essential to have read the first novel to follow and enjoy this one, however there is some overlap in cases and plot — certain events during The Second Girl, while adequately covered, do have repercussions during Crime Song.

SwinsonD-FM2-CrimeSongUKAs with the first novel, Crime Song hits the ground running. Marr is once again thinking about his next score, while also having to deal with his nephew, a student at GW who seems to have landed himself in a spot of bother. After conducting some investigative work, he returns to discover that his home has been burglarized.

As the personal and professional collide, he decides to help the DCPD in their investigations — tracking not only his lost property, but also trying to find out who was responsible. Perhaps to pass on information to the cops, perhaps to mete out some justice of his own. As events spiral out of control, he must contend with suspicious former partners, gang bangers, corrupt cops, and his own cocaine addiction.

I won’t discuss the plot anymore than that. Needless to say, I was hooked from the beginning, and ended up reading this quicker than the first novel. Swinson’s prose is superb — tightly composed, with authentic dialogue; his attention to detail is excellent, but not exhausting (I have it on good authority that his procedural detail is all spot-on, which no doubt accounts for how well it reads). His characters are all interesting and well-rounded. Returning characters have grown and been altered (in a couple of instances) by their experiences in the first novel.

Marr himself continues to battle his inner demons, while also managing to accidentally cause a lot of collateral good (I can’t think of any other way of describing it, but it has a nice ring to it). He’s a fantastic protagonist — familiar as a ‘type’ in crime and thriller fiction, but with enough original twists to make him feel wholly new. This is true of the series as a whole: as I mentioned in my first review, the novel is faithful to a number of the genre’s tropes and standards, but a combination of the excellent writing and plotting, as well as just enough twists and tweaks makes it feel very fresh and original.

I am extremely impatient for the next novel. Just brilliant. I find it very difficult not to wax hyperbolic about this series. To repeat myself: easily one of my favourite new authors and series. A must read of the year.

Very highly recommended.


David Swinson‘s Crime Song is published by Mulholland Books in the US and UK, in May.

Also on CR: Review of The Second Girl

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

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