The Haunting Ballad

The Haunting Ballad

by Michael Nethercott

Overview:Having taken over his father's PI business, Lee enlists O'Nelligan, a dapper Irishman with a flair for solving mysteries, to help catch a killer. Now, in Michael Nethercott's The Haunting Ballad, this sleuthing "odd couple" are back in another witty, charming, and wonderfully written mystery, this time set in 1957 in the burgeoning music scene of New York City's Greenwich Village.

It's the spring of 1957, and O'Nelligan and Plunkett are summoned to New York to investigate the death of a controversial folk song collector. The trail leads the pair to a diverse group of suspects including an eccentric Beat coffee house owner, a family of Irish balladeers (who may be IRA), a bluesy ex-con, a hundred-and-five-year-old Civil War drummer boy, and a self-proclaimed "ghost chanter" who sings songs that she receives from the dead. To complicate matters, there's a handsome, smooth-talking young folk singer who Lee's fiancée Audrey is enthralled by. And somewhere in the Bohemian swirl of the Village, a killer waits...

Deanna Boe (01/02/19):I am not sure just which murder mystery writer this author’s style reminds me, but it does. Agatha Christy? The way the murder is solved and all tied together at the end makes me think of another author, I am just not sure who. Perhaps you can figure it out. This is a good first novel that takes place in the fifties in Greenwich Village. The main character is Lee Plunkett who has been engaged for years to Audrey. It just so happens that Lee is a private detective whose partner is a debonair Irishman, Mr. O’Nelligan. Lee took over his father’s business after he passed away. Fortunately Mr. O’Nelligan teamed up with him (but takes no money) since he definitely appears to be the “brains” behind their success.

The whole storyline starts with Lee and Audrey going to a smoky, candlelit coffee-house in Greenwich Village. Lee goes there simply to appease his long suffering fiancé. Amazingly enough, Lee and his partner are asked to return to this coffee-house shortly after this first encounter. A young lady (known as a “songcatcher) has jumped to her death, or so the police have ruled but her niece feels it was murder and not suicide. Would they please investigate and see if this is true?

From here Lee and Mr. O’Nelligan interact with lots of crazy type of characters searching for the truth. Lee has a tendency to believe it was suicide but not Mr. O’Nelligan who pushes Lee to continue the search. In the meantime, Audrey is seen with another man to add a little more to the storyline. As a first novel I feel the author has potential to be a decent mystery writer.
Rating: ***

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