Ever wish you could be a part of a world-famous rock band and perform at venues in cities like Paris, New York, Berlin, London? Well, okay, but without the drugs and other well-known and often life-threatening habits (or addictions) we hear about. Blacklight is such a band, originating in Britain and now after more than thirty years still going strong. The band members, like most of us in real life, have gotten older and, mostly, wiser. Believable? Not only believable, but with each new JP Kinkaid novel, Deborah Grabien gets better and better at carving out a literary niche all her own.
If you are familiar with the JP Kinkaid Chronicles, you know that guitarist JP is the character who acts as anchor to this imaginative series of “sort of” murder mysteries. However, JP is not a sleuthing guitarist. He has lots of ideas about who did what to whom, but mostly he ends up calling on San Francisco detective Patrick Ormand for the serious work. Ormand is just about the only non-musical character in the series, a kind of “reality check” character.
Reading Book of Days is like visiting old friends, but it’s a great read even if meeting the band for the first time. As a touring group, Bands like Blacklight are not always on the road. When not on tour, the band members disperse, generally returning to a less stressful life at home and occasional stints in recording studios. For JP Kinkaid and his wife Bree, home is San Francisco, where Bree runs a catering business and JP plays with a mature group of musicians aptly named “The Fog City Geezers.” San Francisco is lay-back time for JP, who suffers from MS and recently recovered from a very mild heart attack when performing in Boston.
Book of Days is a bit of a blow-out for the band. They’ve recently recorded a CD and as it rises to the top of the charts, their plans for a world tour begin to grow. The business side of the music industry is every bit as complex and exciting as anything found on Wall Street. Blacklight on tour is an organization made up of far more than talented musicians. Among the personnel that go along on every tour are lighting crews, stage crews, security, medical staff, and a business staff that is never more than an email or cell phone away.
While on tour, one member of Blacklight’s crew dies under circumstances that do not immediately lead back to the band. It takes another death before JP begins to sense that the deaths might be connected. With their CD staying at the top of the charts week after week, their business manager brokers a monster of an international tour at some of the world’s most enviable venues tied to top dollar tickets and a hectic, whirlwind pace. Seemingly unrelated deaths continue to occur, but separated by place and time. It is not until Blacklight’s security chief is killed that JP puts in a call to San Francisco and makes an offer that Patrick Ormand cannot refuse.
Grabien is deft at writing a mystery in which the deaths are almost secondary to the novel about aging rock stars. She is also very good at developing characters the reader can care about. In addition to being musicians, they are husbands, wives, children. They are people who have come a long way from their years of living on the edge. Like the rest of the world, they’ve been touched by death, divorce and illness, but they have survived to appreciate the love and dedication they have to one another. What all these characters have in common with the author is her love of music; music in its composition, its instruments, its performance, its history, and its legends.
I’m looking forward to #6 in the JP Kinkaid Chronicles, but let’s hope Grabien gives him a well deserved rest and lets us again see the musical side of his San Francisco life as she did in When My Guitar Gently Weeps, the second book in the JP Chronicles.