The Big Rewind
I absolutely adored The Big Rewind by Libby Cudmore. It’s a wonderful blend of murder mystery, satiric portrait of hipster life, quarter-century nostalgia (silly as that is), awkward burgeoning romance, and love for music, with the right song capturing the perfect memory or even changing your life.
Jett lives in her grandmother’s apartment in Brooklyn. She wants to be a music journalist, but as we all know, print is dead, so she temps where she can and glides through life, missing the past love of her life and holding record listening parties with her best friend Sid. Then she mistakenly gets a package for someone else in her building that contains a mix tape.
The friendly downstairs neighbor is KitKat, “a neat-banged brunette who baked red velvet cupcakes and pot brownies, read tarot, and had both an NES and a Sega Genesis…. Of course someone was sending her mix tapes. I was just surprised it wasn’t packaged in a vintage suitcase or a mason jar filled with glitter.” When Jett takes the tape to her, she discovers KitKat’s body on her kitchen floor.
Everyone assumes the boyfriend did it, but Jett knows him and doesn’t believe it. As she tries to find the real killer, we learn more about her young urban neighborhood, who sent the mix tape and why (and what the music means), Jett’s romantic history (as represented by songs, shades of High Fidelity), and whether she’s ready to love again.
I loved the immediate time capsule nature of the setting, the way Cudmore tosses in apropos references. I was won over when she describes the group of social media connections over-indulging in grief over the death as “a surging tide of seafoam Toms and ModCloth skirts” led by a “blonde with femme fatale lipstick and a librarian blouse”.
The search for a working tape player seemed a little exaggerated, but maybe that’s because I still have several outdated bits of tech laying around, including a Walkman. It allowed for more entertaining character portraits, though, as she gets favors from friends of friends.
This is more than just a mystery. If you’re looking for a straightforward path from body through clues to solution, you won’t enjoy it. But I greatly enjoyed the various elements making up the neighborhood picture and Jett’s growing up, one big mix of moods and personalities.