Music of the Spheres

Johnny Heron is down once again, but that doesn't stop him from attacking a seemingly impossible case, not believing the rumors and not backing down from the threats. One more time, he fumbles and fights his way to the truth behind blackmail, infidelities, and murder... and a really good martini.

From the novel:
"When death looks you in the eye he challenges you to look back. He dares you to fall back on the normal excuses to try and ignore him. Just try telling him about reincarnation, rebirth, heaven, the afterlife, alternate universes, universal consciousness, religion, infinity, eternity, insanity. He forces me into the present, into the boredom of logical life, to focus on every detail. How I place the key into the ignition, start the car, turn the wheel to pass the Bistro, look at it, pretending it is the same as it was when I passed it a couple of hours ago. I perform: I steer, I dim my brights for an oncoming car, I’m nice to someone I will never know."

ISBN: 978-1-929355-70-9 * $16 (trade paperback) * 185 pages

and check out this recent review from Shelf Awareness:

Detectives named after birds? Check out this Mystery Scene article and see if you can come up with any: 
"Some Mysteries are strictly for the birds"

The noted American sculptor Michael Burke has published two mysteries featuring a detective named Johnny "Blue" Heron—Swan Dive and Music of the Spheres (Caravel Mystery Books). Thus, there are two questions to be considered: (1) Are there any other literary detectives named for birds, and (2) Can a man named Heron commit a cardinal sin"?

Swan Dive focuses on “Blue” Heron, a down-and-out detective with a roaming eye who gets much too involved in a complex business deal, a deal which results in embezzlement, swindling, sexual misconduct, and murder. Along the way, Blue discovers a great deal about himself while trying to understand the subterfuge. One of his problems is that he often gets too entranced with whatever woman is nearest to be able to concentrate on the job he’s being paid to do. That makes for trouble. 

ISBN: 978-1-929355-50-1 * $15 (trade paperback) * 165 pages

From PW Daily, May 31, 2009: “Pleasure Boat Studio is a press that few have heard of, but [Heather] Shaw, in her post at Foreword, has been extremely impressed by the list from this ‘tiny’ New York press. Publisher Jack Estes was on hand to pitch a debut mystery, Swan Dive by Michael Burke. The mystery is based on the myth of Leda and the Swan—that is, Zeus transforming himself into a swan in order to seduce the beautiful Leda, generating several children—‘loosely based,’ Estes hastened to add, in this ‘extremely intelligent’ mystery by the son of famed literary critic and philosopher Kenneth Burke. The detective at the heart of the story is one John ‘Blue’ Heron—none too smart, innocent, naïve, with an eye for women and enough ambition to get the next month’s rent, barely. Estes said the narrative techniques are sophisticated but that he considers Swan Dive a ‘blue-collar mystery—earthy, thought-provoking and very, very smart.’” 

“Move over, Dashiell Hammett. Make room, Cornell Woolrich. With his first novel, Swan Dive, Michael Burke joins the pantheon of private eye muses. This fast-paced who-done-it is a masterful achievement of unpredictable narrative cast with diverse and engaging characters. Michael Burke spices his tale with an artist’s eye and philosopher’s wit as he enlightens and entertains.” – Sidney Offit, author of Memoir of the Bookie’s Son and Writers and Other Countrymen.

"Where has Michael Burke been hiding? His first book – a detective thriller called Swan Dive – has the speed and sex of Spillane, the plotting of Chandler and the wit and charm of Hammett. There's money, murder and mayhem and, to keep things bubbling, a bevy of gorgeous women–the most tempting and intriguing of whom may just be Leda and the Swan! I couldn't put it down.” – John Gruen, author of Callas Kissed Me…Lenny Too! A Critic’s Memoir

Review from Foreword Magazine, Sept. 2009: Michael Burke’s debut novel, Swan Dive, is a deft turn into the modern-day hardboiled detective novel. Paying homage to classic crime writers like Dashiell Hammet and Raymond Chandler, Burke delivers neo-noir that is a little more humorous, a little more risqué, and little more high tech than classic noir. Johnny Heron, also called Blue by friends and colleagues, is a downtrodden private eye with a penchant for women and late night stops at the local Pharm-a-Lot for a nightly dose of sleeping pills. What makes this combination tolerable is Heron’s self-deprecating sarcasm and the recognition that he can’t rely solely on his own intelligence.
During a routine job—keeping tabs on a man’s son—Heron stumbles into a labyrinthine maze of high stakes deceit. George Fuller, head of Fuller Investment Company, hires Heron to ensure that his son Castor Fuller is not having an affair that would endanger his pending marriage to Beverly Whitney. Heron discovers that Beverly Whitney’s father, Douglas Whitney of Whitney and Whitney Investments, is in a business deal with George Fuller. And the more Heron tails Castor, the more he learns that this marriage and business merger of Whitney and Fuller is not what it seems. To figure out everyone’s motives, Heron enlists the help of some former colleagues at the local police department: Inspector Kathy McGregor, ace researcher, and Chief Inspector, JJ Cakes, Heron’s friend and protector. Heron also depends on Henry Cadman, a.k.a. ‘Doctor Dollar’, a chubby and disheveled financial wizard who gives Heron the inside scoop on the Whitney-Fuller merger. 
Judge Plumworth, the judge presiding over the merger, perfects the triangle of intrigue. In the tradition of hardboiled detectives, Heron gets himself involved with a few of the beautiful women who are integral pieces in a deadly game of chess. Helen Plumworth, the stunning, lanky blond daughter of Judge Plumworth, gets under Heron’s skin and becomes an unlikely heroine. But Heron’s fickle heart is most at home with Inspector Kathy, who is a perfect match for Heron’s mind and body. Throw in a couple more conniving seductresses and this romp is complete.
 Burke has penned an entertainingly updated version of the noir genre. Johnny Heron is a man’s man and this is a satisfying read for those who miss the crafty yet cavalier women-chasing private eyes of the pulp fiction era. (September) Monica Carter

Book Review: Swan Dive (KB Journal):

Elsewhere in this journal we print the on-line reviewer Teri Davis takes on Michael Burke’s new novel, Swan Dive. Here we do our own review.
Private Detective Johnny “Blue” Heron pursues his quarry across the rubble desert of de-industrialized New England, that sprawling region North of Boston that Tom Wolfe called “the grayed-out Atlantic Sea Board.” Hired by an apparently wealthy father to discover his son’s affairs, ‘Blue’ encounters incest, perjury, suicide, embezzlement and murderous revenge as the adventure unfolds. He is constantly threatened, hoodwinked, and savagely attacked. Luckily, these intrigues and dangers do not interfere with his ability to copulate.
Mickey Spillane was always telling us that Mike Hammer had a “huge mind” yet he never produced anything but snarky clichés. ‘Blue,’ on the other hand, is far more than a lead fisted detective with driving energy and endless curiosity. He is a reflective man as well. This private eye is moved to tears by the fate of clients, and during his journeys in his aging Toyota he laments the loss of New England’s maritime charm, the displacement of the middle class, the departure of old-line industries, the loss of open spaces, and the corporate indifference to local aesthetics. Everywhere he perceives the ghosts of lost American community. As he sutures together his case, Blue is surrounded by farcically empty careerists. Yet he remains strong in his purpose and indifferent to the endless and joyless greed and carnality of nearly everyone around him.
Michael Burke is a master of dialogue. He practices the trope of economy and dialogue moves with the speed and wit of Comedia Del Arte. Johnny Blue Heron speaks with the force and certainty of a tight lipped athlete, describing and summing up complex situations with quick deft images.
But if the dialogue is vehement, fluent and rapid, the exposition is lush and thickly textured. Burke has a photographer’s, sensibility. One might almost say he has a painterly eye. With rapid strokes he sketches vividly focused scenes and then moves the reader through them like the Eye of God pursuing Ahab across the desert floor. The narrative has balance and flow and discipline and pace. At the end of 175 swiftly moving pages I cried out for more.
Michael Burke’s novel runs on two tracks: the myth of Leda and the Swan, and the journey of Johnny Heron. Along the way he insinuates Heron upon us by giving him sparkling wit and bucketfuls of charm.
And there will be more. We understand that he is finished or nearly finished with The Music of the Spheres, the next book in the Johnny ‘Blue’ Heron series to appear late this year. It will be eagerly awaited by this reviewer.
Andy King, Editor, KB Journal

Check out a new review in NewPages. Click here.

Michael Burke, a sculptor and graphic artist, lives and works in New York City, and he is already well along on Music of the Spheres, the next “Blue” Heron novel, another myth-based mystery with intrigue, lust, and more than one good laugh. Check out a recent interview with Michael and two other authors at New York’s Book  Expo America. Just click here.

michael burke