Saturday, November 19, 2011


by Janice MacDonald
Turnstone Press

Reading Hang Down Your Head is like reading the 'essential guide to the Edmonton Folk Festival and all related folk music information'. It's that jam-packed with the in's and out's, the personalities, and the pleasures of that scene.

Janice MacDonald has done an amazing amount of research, however her own basic knowledge and love of the music is very evident. She plays four instruments and has been a singer/songwriter, too! It's this 'insider' touch that lifts a plot off the pages and wraps the reader in it. And, in her acknowledgements, she thanks the many real musicians who allowed her to use their names. Now, if you're a folkie, that's worth the price of admission.

But MacDonald has done more. She's also included a complex mystery with a body count of three and a brutal assault on a co-worker, along with the requisite threat to the protagonist, Randy Craig's life. Craig is a seasonal lecturer at the University of Alberta who scores a job at the Folkways Collection. This allows her access to these hot names in the folk world, as well as working alongside a very attractive specialist from the Smithsonian in Washington.

Tension at the project increases as the bequest that is the core funding, is contested by the two folk music hating children of the deceased donor. When one of them is killed, Craig joins the suspect list since her job could be in jeopardy. When the other murders occur, it's hard for Craig's cop boyfriend to keep her out of the sleuthing. And out of danger.

In Hang Down Your Head, MacDonald does a great job of playing tour guide to the reader, as she takes us through the streets, the parks, and the university in Edmonton. Her writing is witty and descriptive. The mystery is intricate and well-plotted. You can actually feel yourself as being part of the Edmonton Folk Festival, that is, if you're not too busy scouring the crowd for a murderer.

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