Sounds of Murder

Mystery & Thrillers

By Patricia Rockwell

Publisher : Cozy Cat Press

ABOUT Patricia Rockwell

Patricia Rockwell
I'm a recently retired University Communication professor.  My husband and I moved to Illinois from Louisiana where I promptly began blogging and writing mysteries--something I had wanted to do but never had the time to do.  My two grown children are on their own, so Hubby and I are empty-nesters.


When Psychology Professor Pamela Barnes discovers her department's star researcher strangled to death in the computer lab, she's determined to find out who did it.  Will an accidental recording of the murder allow Pamela to use her expertise in acoustics to identify the killer?  A unique cozy mystery--set in the world of academia and high-stakes research--full of excitement, humor, and romance. 

Pamela Barnes, the amateur sleuth in this first book of a series of cozy mysteries, solves crimes with her knowledge of sound--that is, acoustic technology. I've always been interested in sounds--particularly human vocal sounds--and I'm intrigued by ways that investigators (professionals as well as amateurs) can use sound to identify criminals and solve crimes. In "Sounds of Murder," Pamela finds a recording that is accidentally made during the course of a strangulation--and she uses it to track down a rather clever killer.

4.0 out of 5 stars Great debut cozy, bodes well for a 2nd in the series, July 30, 2010
By  Betty Gelean (Smithers, BC) - 
This review is from: Sounds of Murder (Paperback)
Patricia Rockwell is an academic with an extensive portfolio of publications, journal articles, textbooks and presentations. She holds a doctorate in Communications. This is her first book of fiction. With her solid and prolific background in academics, it would be easy to think the transition to fiction might be a bit weighty, or overly academic. This is absolutely not true of Dr. Rockwell. She has written a cozy novel in an untapped area of the study of sound waves that is very definitely readable. I chose to review this book because I'm fascinated by all kinds of science, and love cozy mysteries. I was not disappointed.

"Sounds of Murder" does take place in a university, and sprinkled throughout, the politics of a university come dashing through. But this is a murder mystery set in a faculty dealing with communications. As in all cozy mysteries, there are several interwoven characterizations. Anyone who has gone to, or worked in, a college or university will appreciate the diverse personalities they find there.

Our heroine, Pamela Barnes, specializes in Acoustics, the study of sound waves, voice patterns, and basically anything to do with sound. She teaches this at a graduate school in the university. On this night, she has a three-hour class and has just made sure that her student assistant, Kent, has locked the Communications Lab before they go to class, since the school is usually empty at this time of the evening and there is a great deal of very expensive equipment in there.

The author's characters range from meek to extreme behaviour. Dr. Charlotte Clark is one of the latter and very quickly the story takes off with a terrible argument between Dr. Clark and the Head of the Department, Mitchell Marks. Pamela has just come into the front of the main office to get her mail and the strength of the argument is coming right through the Head's office door. She can hear it, although she can't hear the words, When she hears Charlotte getting louder as she approaches the door, she hurries out of the office and into class.

On leaving at the end of the evening, Kent is sent to double-check that the door to the lab is locked. Next thing she hears is Kent running and calling her to come to the lab, he has found the door wide open and a body slumped at one of the special computers. Now our story is really underway as police arrive and question them both together and separately, only with a brief pause for Pamela to call her husband Rocky to let him know she would be late.

From this point on, the action begins to build, everybody seems to have a motive of some type, but as well, we are witness to all Pamela's thought processes, which I found to be unique and fascinating. Her mind goes over and over but jumps to inane things in between just as a person who has met with trauma would do. Here I began to have the feeling of being inside her head, a remarkable piece of storytelling. This happens a few times as the investigation moves along, but the reader almost always knows what Pamela herself is thinking. Though this may be anticipated to be monotonous, in reality it most certainly is not; there is even some humor to be found in this method. One thing she is thinking is that she may well be the only person available with the expertise to possibly solve this case or at the very least present compelling evidence, because she has a small sound byte on a CD that she knows she is the most likely to be able to analyze it.

Meanwhile, Rocky and the lead Columbo-like Detective Shoop both try to stop her from "sticking her nose in" but she just can't leave it alone. This is a well-written mystery, with some unique features. I do enjoy finding cozies or any book that has something new and different. This appears to be the first in a series, and I certainly hope so. There is humor and pathos, surprises, lots of interaction of characters, and a most tempting house to come home to. Regardless of the murder and political academia, this is essentially a warm friendly story, a perfect cozy to curl up with.

5.0 out of 5 stars A Sound Mystery, July 9, 2010
By  Janice M. Hidey (Sykesville, MD USA) - 
This review is from: Sounds of Murder (Paperback)
Pamela Barnes is a professor in psychology who specializes in speech and sound is at Grace University. Kent, her graduate assistant, finds Dr. Charlotte Clark dead in the computer lab, strangled by a cord. Though Clark brought in lots of grant money to the university, she was not popular with the others in the department but Barnes wants to make sure her murderer is found.

Dr. Barnes had heard Clark arguing with the department head Mitchell Marks before the murder and Clark placed a mysterious photo of a former student in Marks mail slot the day she was murdered. The woman arrives and leaves crying. Barnes cannot imagine Marks murdered Clark but thinks it has to be someone in the psychology department. The police are not working as quickly as she would like so she starts investigating.

When the computer lab is again opened, Pamela goes back in to see if she can find something the police may have missed. She wonders if Clark had turned on the sound toggle while she was working at the computer. She checks the main computer and realizes the sounds of the murder had been recorded probably accidentally pushed by Clark in the midst of the struggle. Pamela listens to it and makes a copy. When later than evening Pam tells her husband, Rocky about it he is concerned and tells her to leave the investigation to the police.

Pamela does take the disc to the police but keeps a copy and with her persistence records sounds to find out what is making that non-human clicking sound in the recording that she cannot identify. This leads to a confrontation and the murderer is uncovered.

This book covers the fascinating inner workings of a university dealing with tenure issues, cutbacks, grant money and strong personalities. Rockwell has written interesting characters and I want to read more books about Professor Pamela Barnes.

4.0 out of 5 stars Debut Mystery, June 14, 2010
By  Sandra Kirkland (High Point, North Carolina United States) - 
This review is from: Sounds of Murder (Paperback)
After teaching a graduate seminar, Professor Pamela Barnes is shocked when her graduate assistant Kent comes to her and announces that he's found a dead body in their computer lab. She is even more shocked when she goes with Kent and discovers that it is one of her peers, Dr. Charlotte Clark. Charlotte has been strangled with the cord of headset at one of the computers.

Charlotte is the star of the Psychology Department at Grace University. A renowned scholar and fund-raiser, she published more research and won more grants than anyone else in the department. Who could have killed her? It seems that the suspects are legion. There is Mitchell Marks, head of the department, who was overheard in a shouting match with Charlotte the evening of the murder. There are departmental rivalries with some professors resenting Charlotte's popularity with the students and others resenting the money she brought in as they felt their areas were slighted financially compared to her budget. There are three professors fighting for tenure and only two spots. Since Charlotte was head of the tenure committee, it provides another source of suspects since tenure is a professional make or break situation.

Pamela is questioned closely by the police. She later visits the lab where Charlotte was murdered, and realises that there is a recording of the murder that was inadvertedly left behind by the murderer. Since Pamela's speciality is the psychology of speech and the study of different noises, she can't resist making a copy of the recording when she gives one to the police. Her actions do nothing more than make her a target for the killer. Will the murderer be discovered before Pamela is killed herself?

This is Patricia Rockwell's first mystery, and could easily be the start of a series. The reader will enjoy the characters, and those in academia will recognize them immediately as Rockwell has captured the rhythms and conflicts of a university quite well. The mystery is satisfactorily solved, with a murderer who will come as a surprise. This book is recommended for mystery lovers.