Betty's Reviews > Sounds of Murder

Sounds of Murder by Patricia Rockwell
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Sep 02, 10

bookshelves: amateur-sleuth, college, acoustic, academic, cozy, murder-mystery, communications, debut, 1st-in-series
Read from July 27 to 30, 2010

Patricia Rockwell is an academic with an extensive portfolio of publications, journal articles, textbooks and presentations. She holds a doctorate in Communications. This is her first book of fiction. With her solid and prolific background in academics, it would be easy to think the transition to fiction might be a bit weighty, or overly academic. This is absolutely not true of Dr. Rockwell. She has written a cozy novel in an untapped area of the study of sound waves that is very definitely readable. I chose to review this book because I'm fascinated by all kinds of science, and love cozy mysteries. I was not disappointed.

"Sounds of Murder" does take place in a university, and sprinkled throughout, the politics of a university come dashing through. But this is a murder mystery set in a faculty dealing with communications. As in all cozy mysteries, there are several interwoven characterizations. Anyone who has gone to, or worked in, a college or university will appreciate the diverse personalities they find there.

Our heroine, Pamela Barnes, specializes in Acoustics, the study of sound waves, voice patterns, and basically anything to do with sound. She teaches this at a graduate school in the university. On this night, she has a three-hour class and has just made sure that her student assistant, Kent, has locked the Communications Lab before they go to class, since the school is usually empty at this time of the evening and there is a great deal of very expensive equipment in there.

The author's characters range from meek to extreme behaviour. Dr. Charlotte Clark is one of the latter and very quickly the story takes off with a terrible argument between Dr. Clark and the Head of the Department, Mitchell Marks. Pamela has just come into the front of the main office to get her mail and the strength of the argument is coming right through the Head's office door. She can hear it, although she can't hear the words, When she hears Charlotte getting louder as she approaches the door, she hurries out of the office and into class.

On leaving at the end of the evening, Kent is sent to double-check that the door to the lab is locked. Next thing she hears is Kent running and calling her to come to the lab, he has found the door wide open and a body slumped at one of the special computers. Now our story is really underway as police arrive and question them both together and separately, only with a brief pause for Pamela to call her husband Rocky to let him know she would be late.

From this point on, the action begins to build, everybody seems to have a motive of some type, but as well, we are witness to all Pamela's thought processes, which I found to be unique and fascinating. Her mind goes over and over but jumps to inane things in between just as a person who has met with trauma would do. Here I began to have the feeling of being inside her head, a remarkable piece of storytelling. This happens a few times as the investigation moves along, but the reader almost always knows what Pamela herself is thinking. Though this may be anticipated to be monotonous, in reality it most certainly is not; there is even some humor to be found in this method. One thing she is thinking is that she may well be the only person available with the expertise to possibly solve this case or at the very least present compelling evidence, because she has a small sound byte on a CD that she knows she is the most likely to be able to analyze it.

Meanwhile, Rocky and the lead Columbo-like Detective Shoop both try to stop her from "sticking her nose in" but she just can't leave it alone. This is a well-written mystery, with some unique features. I do enjoy finding cozies or any book that has something new and different. This appears to be the first in a series, and I certainly hope so. There is humor and pathos, surprises, lots of interaction of characters, and a most tempting house to come home to. Regardless of the murder and political academia, this is essentially a warm friendly story, a perfect cozy to curl up with.
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