John McDonough’s debut novel, Songbird at Midnight (Charming Dragon Press, 2020), absolutely blew me away.
I was just a bit skeptical when I saw that this was an independently published novel. I’ve read some very poorly written and edited indie novels lately, and I approached this one with gritted teeth. But from the first page, Songbird at Midnight dispelled my skepticism. It is an astonishingly good read. The writing is professional and clean, the plot is satisfying, the pace is fast, and the characters are believable and alive.
McDonough’s love of music and his intimate knowledge of Austin, Texas, are interwoven with his understanding of history, mythology, government corruption, and the deep state. His realism smoothly metamorphoses into fantasy so seamlessly that the fantasy elements seem real and believable.
In the story, Austin musician Lochlan Nohr and his band Trip the Shark are rapidly becoming successful in the Austin club scene. When two attractive strangers offer the band an extremely generous recording contract, their good fortune almost seems too good to be true. But then Loch’s triumph is quenched when his unrequited college love goes missing. Loch immediately shifts into amateur detective mode and begins searching for his lost friend.
This cross-cutting detective/adventure/urban fantasy/mystery story kept me reading breathlessly until eleven-thirty at night. If it had been longer, I would have read all night.
I had only one (very minor) complaint about the story. In most stories like this, there is one spectacularly beautiful female character, and none of the other women in the story can compare to her. In Songbird at Midnight, it seems that every woman is more beautiful than the last. Now don’t get me wrong—I don’t mind living in a world where every woman is eye-poppingly beautiful. But by the end, the fact that all of the women are dazzling beauties means than none of them really stands out.
I was glad to see that the cover proclaims Songbird at Midnight to be “the first Lochlan Nohr novel.” I can’t wait for the second.
I can recommend Songbird at Midnight without hesitation. It’s an exciting story and a great read.