As a Doctor Who fan, and  a fan of Ben Aaronovitch fan the name Andrew Cartmel is one I look forward to on anything, whether it’s the Rivers of London comic books or Cartmel’s own Vinyl Detective series.

I love Cartmel’s Vinyl Detective series and the first of a new series was intriguing. The Paperback Sleuth is a spin off from the Vinyl Detective series and features the sister of one of the side characters from the previous series. I got hold of the audiobook so it was perfect to have a listen to as I worked.

Cordelia knows books. An addict-turned-dealer of classic paperbacks, when she’s not spending her days combing the charity shops and jumble sales of suburban London for valuable collector’s items, she’s pining for the woman of her dreams and nimbly avoiding her landlord’s demands for rent.

The most elusive prize of all, her white whale, has surfaced—a set of magnificent, vintage Sleuth Hound crime novels. Gorgeous, and as rare as they come. Just one problem. They’re not for sale. Still, that won’t stop a resourceful woman like Cordelia… One burglary later, the books are hers. Unfortunately, the man she’s just robbed turns out be one of London’s most dangerous gangsters, and now he’s on her trail and out for blood.

Cordelia’s best laid plans to pay the rent and woo the object of her affections start to fall apart, and she realises she may have placed herself in the crosshairs of a villain torn straight from the pages of her treasured novels.

Cordelia is the sister of Stinky Stanmer, and although she thinks of herself as a much nicer character but she’s not. Whereas the Vinyl Detective is in many ways characterised and defined primarily by the people that they work with, Cordelia is a very specific character. The story comes from the main characters obsession and desire for certain books and the fact that they will do anything to fulfil that even break the law, she’s very much an anti-hero, and not above forging signatures and theft for monetary gain.

The writing style is different to his other series and I’ll start with the negatives, there are two things I didn’t like so much about the new series, but it could just be finding his feet. The author does seem to have a bit of an obsession with her sexual thoughts and desires that at times feels uncomfortable and doesn’t quite seem to fit into the story, it feels unnecessary and I think it might put off some people. The second is the crossover with the Vinyl Detective Series, I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say that some of the characters appear as side characters here, and it feels like the new story could have run completely separately initially. I love the other series but the characters in this feel so different it just seems strange to have them running so strongly alongside. I would have enjoyed it more if we’d had the references like the artist and the book she collected so many of which were all things referenced in previous Vinyl Detective books and that would have been enough without the main characters themselves being a part of it.

There was lots I enjoyed in this, I did enjoy Cordelia and her hectic lifestyle and in many ways she was a far more interesting character than the vinyl detective, who as I mentioned is defined by the situations he find himself in and the people he meets and interacts with, whereas we never even know the name of the Vinyl Detective, Cornelia is more of, if you’ll excuse the pun, an open book. She’s not particularly likeable and her adventures are more hectic, and more fantastical. Whilst the Vinyl Detective relies heavily on his friends, she doesn’t really have any, and it means the story is much more centered on her, so I think we get to know her much more. As a book fan I enjoyed the conceit of the Paperback Sleuth and at the moment I am intrigued to find where it will go, if the next adventure will be like this of her own making or if it’ll be more like the Vinyl Detective where people hire her.


The audiobook is read by Olivia Dowd, who makes a great narrator and I really enjoyed this format for this book. Andrew Cartmel is a great writer and plotter so there is much to enjoy in this, but it didn’t have the appeal and likeable characters that the Vinyl Detective has, and whilst it’s obvious Cartmel loves books, it did slightly feel it lacked the incredible passion that shines through in the Vinyl Detective series. The thing that might count against this, and I know I have done it throughout this review, is that it will be compared to his earlier series and it should be judged separately as it is different. I enjoyed the story but it hasn’t captured me as much as his previous work so far, but it’s certainly interesting enough that I’ll be really keen to read the next one. The characters are fun and are pretty unlikeable but I do want to see where they go next, I am drawn to stories about people who are passionate about collecting and things and this appeals. If you enjoyed the Vinyl Detective I would recommend it, but don’t expect it to be the same, the only request is I don’t think we need so much about her sexual fantasies etc as it’s arguably the least interesting thing about her.

Author Rating

  • overall
  • writing style
  • plot/information
  • enjoyment

User Reviews


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *