18 September 2008

Review: ROCK & ROLL HOMICIDE, RJ McDonnell

Killeena Publishing, 2008, 288 pages, ISBN 978-0-9814914-1-7

In one of the most dramatic and grisly beginnings I have read for a long time, Terry Tucker, the lead guitar and contract manager of the San Diego rock and roll band Doberman's Stub, dies when his headphones explode at break time during a recording session. The band, already popular on the club scene, has been on the brink of producing three CDs.

Among the suspects for what is undoubtedly murder are the three remaining members of the band, and Tucker's wife Chelsea who inherits $5 million. Chelsea hires Jason Duffy, once a guitarist himself, but now in his debut year as a private investigator. She is convinced that Terry's murder is somehow connected with the contract that Terry had negotiated with the record company Cerise Records. Not only does Jason understand the music industry, his father is a highly decorated, now retired, detective of the San Diego Police Department and his contacts will be invaluable if Jason can get him onbpard. The action heats up when Jason uncovers links between the record company and the Russian Mafia.

ROCK & ROLL HOMICIDE is RJ McDonnell's debut novel and in some ways it shows. For example, rather unusually, the back cover of the dust jacket contains information about Jason Duffy, the detective who is the focal point of the book. This is information that does not appear anywhere else in the book. If the book is ever separated from its dustjacket, the information is lost. The blurb on the inside covers of this book is too explicit, too extensive. It doesn't just try to whet the reader's appetite for the book - it makes us wonder if there is anything left to be told. Neither the book or the dust jacket contains any information about the author.

The potential of this novel was marred by an excessively complicated story, with too many threads which then all needed to be tied off. It may have seemed a stroke of genius to link the recording company with the Russian Mafia, but for me it looked like a step too far. I would have settled for much more local gangsters. I felt the same about an import/export company called Rasputin Enterprises.

There is, however, no doubting the fresh enthusiasm of RJ McDonnell's writing. He creates interesting characters, who range from an obsessive compulsive office assistant, to a photographer who has Tourette's Syndrome, to Jason's Duffy's very normal and very supportive mother. The extensive amounts of dialogue on the other hand often didn't work for me, and seemed to be in need of tough editing. I feel that writing this novel has been a great learning experience for McDonnell and a good platform from which to write his next. He writes with authority and ultimately achieved that final resolution of loose ends that all crime fiction writers aim for.

ROCK & ROLL HOMICIDE will undoubtedly find a niche among readers who love the band scene.
Find out more about the author on his website at http://www.rjmcdonnell.com/
There you can also read the Prologue and the first two chapters of ROCK & ROLL HOMICIDE.

My rating: 3.5

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