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Rock and Roll Never Forgets: A JP Kinkaid Mystery by Deborah Grabien
Cover Artist: Photo: Eddie Otchere/PYMCA/Jupiter Images
Review by Ernest Lilley
St. Martin's Minotaur Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312379995
Date: 08 July 2008 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

JP Kinkaid, aging Hall of Fame rocker, has a problem. Well, lots of problems, actually. He's got a crazy ex-wife, multiple sclerosis, self-absorption up the wazoo, and a serious failure to communicate with Bree, the woman he took up with when she was jailbait and now decades later is the love of his life. But his real problem is that there's a dead body in his dressing room, and the police really like his gal for the crime. If he was a more proactive protagonist, it would be a more satisfying mystery, but it's still an interesting romp through the lives of rock royalty.

JP Kinkaid is a Rock & Roll legend. He's a guitarist with the still wildly popular Brit rock group Blacklight, and we find him in the middle of a tour for the group's latest album. JP and the band are finishing up their European tour, and are ready to take off a month or so before starting up on the US side. When they put down their guitars in London, they're all too glad to see each other scatter to their own homes. Not that there's any bad blood between them, but they're tired. JP isn't just tired, though. Like many an aging rocker, he's more than a bit worn out as well. Getting old is a bitch, but it's a good thing he'd kicked drugs and booze a while back, because he's got Multiple Sclerosis, and though his meds keep him reasonably stable, there are days when his fingers just won't talk to him. His mates are an all right lot though, and they work together pretty well, picking up for him when he gets too tired for the tricky stuff. That's good, because the month of rest he's supposed to get isn't going to be restful at all, and from here on in it's all going to be tricky stuff.

Back in San Francisco JP wants to kick back with his lady Bree, whom he met decades earlier when he was on tour and his wife had split. Not divorced because she wanted the perks, or control, or something, but they definitely weren't an item any more. So it's Bree he's been living with for thirty years now, and Bree he loves more than anything except perhaps his pampered existence. JP's not a bad guy, he's not a flamboyant egotist, he's just a self absorbed musician who like things the way they are. Unfortunately, all the things he's put off dealing with are about to come home to roost, and they're not happy things at all.

The morning after getting home to hearth and heart, the group's publicist phones to tell JP that an ambush biographer named Perry Dillon is putting together a biography of the band and it's been decided that they'll cooperate, at least to the extent of giving him some interviews. JP's past is pretty checkered. Heroin, coke, hooking up with Bree when she was underage (he really didn't know) and more, and he's not happy about it at all. If he's not happy, Bree is seriously not happy, probably because she's got demons of her own in the closet. Demons she's never really shown JP, shielding him from the truth about the lengths she's gone to protect him. Then Bree starts acting strange, insisting on coming on the New York leg of the tour, when she never comes along, preferring invisibility to fame any day. Still, JP is thrilled to have her in the wings when he performs...right up until the moment she disappears from sight about the same time someone is offing the biographer in JP's dressing room.

Was it Bree, in the dressing room, with a guitar stand? Well, it wasn't Colonel Mustard in teh New York Public Library, and NYPD detective Patrick Ormanrnd likes Bree for it. A lot.

The story winds through tour dates, police interrogations, and MS attacks from there. JP alternates between being fiercely protective of Bree and falling over periodically from the strain of touring, his lady being on the hot seat, and the sure knowledge that while he's willing to believe her when she says she didn't kill the creep, there's a lot more going on with her than she's telling him.

This isn't so much murder mystery really as a tour down the Rock & Roll hall of shame and self indulgence. Blacklight isn't a smashing guitar's and hotel rooms sort of band, so they're peccadilloes are pretty tame by Rock standards, but JP never tries to solve the case, instead reacting defensively to the events around him. The real mystery here isn't whether or not Bree killed Dillon, but when, if ever, JP will wake up and take some responsibility for his own life after being sheltered by fame, fortune and love for lo these many years. His signature strength is loyalty, but like most strengths, it's really a mask for his fear of change and dealing with the issues that have been simmering in the back burner until they boil away...suddenly filling his life with smoke and burnt offerings.

I suppose Rock & Roll Never Forgets does a decent job of showing the backstage life of aging rockers, but I can't really imagine that anyone interested doesn't already know about "plus one" stage passes and how anyone still rocking after all these years has given up sex (with strangers) and drugs so they can survive in Rock & Roll. JP's battle with MS is the most illuminating part of the story, and the scenes where his band mates rally around him were for me, the most engaging. As a journal of coming to middle age in Rock royalty, it's fairly good reading, but if you're looking for an exercise of "the little grey cells," you won't find it here.

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