In Cruel Zinc Melodies, our favorite gumshoe with a notable distaste for actually working on cases is accosted by a small horde of young well to do ladies (among them sometime girlfriend who might be something more serious than “girlfriend,” Tinnie Tate) bring him the offer of a job. Alyx Weider, the daughter of Max Weider, the biggest brewer in town would like him to investigate a possible haunting at a very large theater the Weiders have decided to build. He takes the job after a great deal of argument, and a talk with Max Weider who believes the problem is actually vandalism or rivalry from other businesses in TunFaire.
Initial investigations reveal that none of the workers will admit to seeing ghosts, but the building seems to be infested with insects of unusual size. Garrett decides to enlist the aid of Pular Singe’s half-brother, Jon Stretch, a rat people community leader with the ability to control rats to investigate and act as exterminators. (There is some interplay where the ratpeople at first pretend that they aren’t insectivores, though they eventually give up the pretense.)
The giant insects eventually turn out to be a separate phenomenon related to some friends of Kip Prose. These kids are from “the Hill” the part of town where the well to do and sorcerers live, and they have been experimenting with various projects that have drawn interest from various quarters. Unfortunately, the kids (and the bugs) have also drawn the attention of something that lives somewhere deep under TunFaire and a system of caves at the bottom of a large silt deposit. The creature’s dreams are somehow creating the ghosts, by interacting with the subconscious of anyone affected by the dreams.
The combination of the Thing in the Caves, and Giant Bugs draws the very concerned attention of the parents of the kids, which is a nightmare for Garrett. Especially since, a) he hates and fears sorcerers, b) they are in his way, and c) he hates and fears sorcerers. (Certain people from The Hill, including a member of the Sorcerer PTA attempt to reassure him they are people just like him. Garrett remains mostly unconvinced and slightly disturbed as he contemplates the idea that “monsters” are also “parents.”)
The sorcerer PTA results in a murder and a lot of trouble for everyone, which draws the attention of the watch, and Prince Rupert, which is even more of a headache. Garrett has various conversations with people from the Hill and the watch, and has a “mature argument” about law and order with Colonel Block.)
Garretin fact has many mature conversations. (After these conversations he generally complains about them.) There’sa brief fly by from Belinda Contague who is there to check out the restaurant area Morely wants to get in order to expand his business. She also wants to unnerve and flirt with poor Garrett who is still trying to be mature (which means no flirting and using his head and other parts. After making him very uncomfortable, Belinda assures him that she’s only teasing and won’t poach onTinnie’s territory, which leaves Garret even more uncomfortable.
Eventually the situation is more or less resolved except for the mysterious creature,which it turns out is linked to “rollups” of massive metal or mineral deposits and also a great deal of destruction when this happens. Garrett has an idea of how to fix this, so he heads down into the caves and finds a way to talk to the creature–who while intelligent, isn’t actually self-aware until it wakes up and communicates with Garret through a “ghost” Garrett creates–Eleanor, the woman from the painting in his office. Unfortunately, he is knocked out for a really long time.
He’s eventually found by his friends, and there’s a happy ending for almost everyone.