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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

'Odd Couple' Sleuths Return in Guilford Author's New Novel

Helen Shepartz
Michael Nethercott is the author of the new novel, "The Haunting Ballad."

Fans of Guilford author Michael Nethercott’s first novel, The Séance Society, will be happy to know that the so-called “odd couple” sleuths, Lee Plunkett and Mr. O’Nelligan, have returned to solve another crime.

Nethercott’s new novel, The Haunting Ballad, features Plunkett and O’Nelligan on the job in Greenwich Village in 1957. The folk singer Lorraine Cobble has fallen to her death from the roof of her apartment building. Did she jump, or was she pushed?

Nethercott says the Plunkett-O’Nelligan combination is a twist on the sleuth-assistant relationship that’s depicted in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novels. Sherlock Holmes was the more capable detective in Doyle’s novels, while in Nethercott’s novels, “it’s really O’Nelligan who has the deductive chops,” while his protagonist, Plunkett, “is the one who has the official P.I. license,” says Nethercott.

The setting, Greenwich Village in 1957, was chosen for two reasons. Nethercott says he wanted to choose an era in which he understood the technology. “I’m not the most tech savvy dude,” he says. “But more than that, the ‘50s have always struck me as an interesting time.”

The title of the novel, The Haunting Ballad, refers to the songs that the murdered character, Lorraine Cobble, claims to receive through a woman who can channel dead folk singers. “I always have some kind of supernatural piece in these O’Nelligan and Plunkett stories.”

Nethercott will be reading at Bartleby’s Books in Wilmington, VT on Saturday, Oct. 18  at 2 p.m.


Peter was a Producer/Announcer at VPR until 2015. He began his public radio career in 2007 at WHQR-FM in Wilmington, North Carolina where he served as Morning Edition host and reporter, covering county government and Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base. His work has won several Associated Press awards and has appeared on NPR's All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, and PRI's This American Life. A graduate of the creative writing program at the University of Maine at Farmington, Peter enjoys writing, cooking and traveling.
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