Friday, June 10, 2016

Murder Mezzo Forte by Donn Taylor: A Book Review

Poor Preston Barclay, history professor at the former Overton Grace College, now renamed and graceless. As if hearing orchestra music in his head most of the time or using colored markers on his two suits--one blue, the other brown--to hide frayed cuffs, being the campus pariah and all-around pain in the neck to the stiff-necked, politically-correct, and misguided administration, or grieving the loss of Faith, his beloved wife, for the past three years aren't all enough to drive him to the brink of madness, finding another (as in second one in the past year) dead body on campus is sure to accomplish that state of mind all by itself. And therein lies the beauty of Murder Mezzo Forte, Donn Taylor's second entry in the Preston Barclay Mysteries.

The sometimes prickly, but immaculately-coiffed physics professor, Mitra Fortier, is dead. To their horror, Press and his friend and former co-investigator, Professor Mara Thorn, are the unfortunate duo to find the even more unfortunate and very dead body. Given those circumstances and the history they share with the police department, Press and Mara find themselves once more involuntarily embroiled in a nasty, back-stabbing, and puzzling murder investigation.

Author Donn Taylor has once more delivered a witty, intelligent, entertaining, and intriguing mystery with enough twists and turns to make a mile-long corkscrew jealous. His first book in the Preston Barclay Mysteries, Rhapsody in Red, hooked me on his droll (and often laugh-out-loud) humor, and his second offering certainly lives up to its predecessor. His characters are so finely drawn, you'd recognize them on the street. With names like Bruno Pinkle, Dean-Dean Billig, and Freda Broyles ("a heavy woman of about sixty or so with a personality like a horned frog. She was shaped kind of like one, too"), you know you're in for a treat.

And Taylor isn't stingy with treats. With his characteristic (and enviable) knowledge of history, literature, Christianity, and both old and new cultures, the author delves into issues not immediately visible on the surface. I found myself reading and re-reading several sections long after I'd finished the book to ponder their meanings just one more time. His style and characters are at once stylish and hilarious, intelligent and head-scratching. Normally I'm able to pick out the bad guy or gal before the end of the story. Not this time. I was left guessing right up to the final reveal.

Donn Taylor is the consummate scholar and author. I can guarantee you'll enjoy every last word, nuance, and bit of humor (whether sly or belly-laugh) you'll encounter in Murder Mezzo Forte.


Donn Taylor led an Infantry rifle platoon in the Korean War, served with Army aviation in Vietnam, and worked with air reconnaissance in Europe and Asia. Afterwards, he earned a PhD in Renaissance literature and taught literature at two liberal arts colleges. His publications include three suspense novels, one historical novel, and a book of poetry. He lives near Houston, TX, where he writes fiction, poetry, and essays on current topics.

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