Friday, July 6, 2012

Sax in the Suburb, Marilyn Rucker

This novel is one of those wonderful experiences which every dedicated reader yearns for when they first crack open that book!  Author Marilyn Rucker has written a tale a band geeks and love gone awry culminating in an ending I certainly never saw coming!

Sax in the Suburb opens with Miranda Beeling warming up her saxophone as she prepares to practice with the community band she is involved in.  All the members of the band are former band-nerds of varying degrees of both age and musical ability. Miranda's idle observations of her fellow band-members paints the picture - these are people I could have known!

As people trickle in to practice, she notes the absence of two trombonists, David Hu and Ralph Tucker; people she deems as irreplaceable as they provide a buffer against 'Cheeto' a rather disgusting, obnoxious person.  As the evening progresses, the conductor, an arrogant, frustrated genius named Mark Garcia arrives, and the band begins to practice, still lacking the two trombonists.

Ralph stumbles in, declaring David has been shot and is in the parking lot.  This is the beginning of the fun - Miranda is a legal assistant at her father's old law firm, and she feels a deep personal connection to the murdered man. She is currently living with her father whose retirement has allowed his hoarding to get out of control, making for an unbelievably difficult environment to live in. Between worrying about her father and work, Miranda's only outlet is the band. In the course of the investigation she meets the police lieutenant investigating the crime, Lieutenant Jason Hartley (hubba-hubba!) who is also a trumpet player.

Rucker paints each scene with simple, vivid strokes.  Miranda discovers how little she really knows about her friends; realizing she only knows what they have allowed her to know.  No one is safe from suspicion, as both Frank and Miranda's best friend, married bassoonist Louise Parkinson were sexually involved with David Hu.  Frank's involvement with David was not news to Miranda, but Louise's was. This leads Miranda to wonder just how much else she doesn't know about her friend.

The twists and turns of this plot are inventive and logical; it never sits and spins its wheels. David is only the first casualty; and as the bodies turn up, the list of suspects grows.  I found I couldn't stop wondering about it when I was forced to put the book down!

Sax in the Suburbs is Marilyn Rucker's first published novel.  She has an intimate knowledge of her subject as she is both a practicing attorney and working musician, playing (!) the sax in a well-known jazz band.