Author: R. J. McDonnell
Publisher: Killeena Publishing
ISBN: 978-0-9814914-1-7

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There is a lot of interesting and entertaining fiction out there that needs to be discovered.  This novel is representative: it is a good, light summer read.  You won’t find the solution to the nation’s healthcare or immigration problems, but you can sit down with your drink, relax, and have an entertaining, imaginative ride in the Southern California sun.

McDonnell uses the USA Network’s definition of character, not the literary one.  His main character, Jason Duffy, is a young and inexperienced PI (sound like Psychic?), the son of an Irish cop in San Diego (not Boston, New York, Philly, or Chicago?).  There are enough dyed-in-the-wool Irish cops on the SD force to call them the Irish Mafia, along with a Polish cop, who begrudgingly helps our young PI in spite of not being a member of the Irish Mafia.

That’s just the start of a long list of USA Network-like “characters.”  Duffy employs a cameraman with Tourette’s syndrome and an obsessive-compulsive secretary (a nod to Monk?).  A stereotypical mix of Russians is also in the cast.  They are so paranoid about protecting themselves that we can’t tell who’s really in the Russian Mafia (again: San Diego?).

 The San Diego I know is not McDonnell’s San Diego, but it definitely could be a haven for local rock stars (isn’t every city?).  Meet the rock group Doberman’s Stub: Terry Tucker, leader, guitarist and vocalist; Nigel Choate, lead guitarist; Jack Pascal, bass player; and Ian Davis, drummer.  The first one is the homicide victim.  Your job is to figure out who’s the real killer among Nigel, Jack, Ian, Terry’s wife, Chelsea, who hires Duffy, and many other suspects.

The story moves along; I didn’t have a boring moment.  Told in the first person, we are young Duffy, following the clues as they come along and as he makes things happen or they happen to him.  There is a subplot here about Duffy’s relationship with his father and his desire to get past the Irish Mafia.  He’s also a wannabe rocker that can’t write a song.

McDonnell seems to have taken liberties with the historical record in his linking of Nigel’s hooligan friends to the Order of Orange.  The whole Irish Protestant versus Irish Catholic sub-theme is too much of a stretch for me, especially in San Diego!  It’s heavy stuff for a book that otherwise is fun to read.  And it seems one-sided. 

I had no sympathies for either side during the Troubles—there were too many innocent victims of fanatics from both sides.  Of course, the British continued their inept colonial careers of creating chaos, especially with the Special Powers Act.  While this favored the Protestant marchers in Portadown, allowing them to parade to Drumcree Church through the nationalist area, this poke at Irish Catholics’ sensibilities was largely a 1990’s phenomenon—the march has since been banned.  I suppose it’s possible that the Portadown picture Duffy sees on Nigel’s office wall is fifteen years old or so and not as recent as I assumed.  If so, Nigel is either a lot older than I thought or he was marching at a very young age.

The Greenmen and the Orangemen may not drink Jameson’s together yet, but I believe things have quieted down enough that industry started moving back into Northern Ireland.  Protestants and Catholics alike were able to get in on the tail end of the Celtic Tiger’s economic boom, which, like the rest of Europe, has been dealt a blow by the current recession. Ireland’s current economic woes may start up the violence again—let’s hope not.  Again, heavy stuff.

R. J. McDonnell’s enjoyable style is somewhere between Carl Hiassen’s in Basket Case and Michael Connelly’s in Chasing the DimeRock & Roll Homicide is not as light as the first, while having a similar story line, and not as heavy as the second.  Rock & Roll Homicide is both interesting and entertaining.  Enjoy.

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