Book Review: The Museum of Sudden Disappearances, a Hilarious Mystery by Thomas Davidson

The Bottom Line: A hugely satisfying tale that is simultaneously funny, suspenseful and subversive. For fans of comic mysteries, the Jurassic Jim Fleetwood series is a must read.

When a small town girl dies in a mysterious car accident, eccentric retro DJ Jurassic Jim Fleetwood becomes the unlikely investigator.

Museum of Sudden DisapparancesFleetwood typically spends his evenings spinning oldies in Michigan dive bar The Swizzle Stick, then heads to his overnight radio broadcast gig for WLUD, a homegrown radio station with laughably low market penetration. Unlike the prototypical DJ, Fleetwood is a relentless champion of underdogs. He relishes breathing life into unloved music almost as much as he enjoys helping damsels in distress.

But when abuse victim Susan Bayne wanders into The Swizzle Stick on a wintry Michigan night, Fleetwood’s efforts at heroism prove to be too little, too late. Only later, when the police deem Susan’s suspicious wreck an accident, does he discover that Susan’s death is complicated by the disappearance of a solid gold record. That minor detail is all the encouragement Fleetwood needs to jump in with both feet.

Thanks to healthy doses of laugh-out-loud dialogue, the first installment in author Thomas Davidson’s series is unadulterated bliss (check out our review of the second Jurassic Jim Fleetwood novel here). Set in 1991, Davidson displays his flair for levity as Jim expresses his annoyance at emerging street language (“Tomorrow I’m attending a funeral for the English language. Closed casket. The language has been clubbed beyond recognition”), or pulling a hilarious bait-and-switch on listeners expecting to hear Billy Ray Cyrus’s ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ (they are instead treated to The Imperial Poobahs of Doo-Wop).

You don’t need a degree in musicology to appreciate Jurassic Jim’s worldview, but if you’re an amateur DJ – or are even mildly obsessive about creating Spotify playlists – this book is bound to become one of your favorites. What’s more, there’s a surprising nobility in Jim’s dedication to truth, justice and the preservation of art that gives the book unexpected heft. Enjoy.

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Bella Wright

Bella Wright blogs about books, film and media.

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