Author:  Donn Taylor
Title:  Rhapsody in Red
Publisher:  Moody Publishers

Professor Preston Barclay hears music.  Not just any music, though.  He hears full symphonies and sonatas in his head, and each one tends to be related to a special person or event. Doctors call it “musical hallucinations,” and the symptoms struck three years ago, after the tragic death of his pianist-wife.  A history professor at a Christian-turned-secular college (in order to attract more students), Barclay is still mourning Faith’s loss.  Yet, he also longs for female companionship—even as he shies away from it.  In the meantime, he just keeps to himself, hiding out in his office.

When one of Barclay’s colleagues, Mara Thorn, knocks on his door and asks for help with another female professor who is making unwelcome sexual overtures toward her, Barclay is more than hesitant. The professor finally agrees to help, but when he and Thorn head over to the woman’s office, they find her dead.

Through a series of mishaps, the pair is accused of the murder, and must solve the mystery in order to clear their names.  Thorn, a practicing Wiccan, is a nervous type who doesn’t like to be touched.  She likes everything in order and performed according to custom, so romance is the last thing on her mind.  Barclay, who is dismayed at the loss of his relationship with God, can’t help but be attracted to the woman, however.  But if they don’t find the murderer, the only place this romance has any chance of blossoming is in prison.

According to his bio, author Donn Taylor served in the military before completing a Ph.D. at the University of Texas, after which he became an professor of English literature at two liberal arts colleges.  He now writes fulltime and has published one other novel (The Lazarus File) as well as a book of poems (Dust and Diamond: Poems of Earth and Beyond).

His latest mystery falls into the category of a “cozy,” which typically takes place in a small town and boasts lively characters, with limited adult situations. Here, there is a mild Christian plot element as well—along with the ubiquitous conversion and restoration to faith. 

Taylor tends to be a bit pedantic in his writing, with an annoying tendency to explain things, rather than let them sit with the reader. His constant references to composers and musical pieces will also fall on deaf ears, for those without a strong musical background.

It’s a nice read for those who enjoy the genre, however, with some good plot twists and a satisfying ending.  Academics will also appreciate his wry portrayal about campus life and politics.