Let me begin by saying that writing a novel is a terrific achievement. I know, having written one ~ and only one. My hat is off to anyone who can complete a novel.
That said, here is my honest opinion of Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide by Geoffrey David West, a murder mystery thriller which which I finished reading this morning.
Characters: This tense, dark, often nerve-wracking thriller is narrated by protagonist and former police psychologist Jack Lockwood in a prosaic, matter-of-fact style. His reasonable voice belies the shattering experiences of his past, including time in a mental hospital after being nearly murdered, and the equally catastrophic convolutions Geoffrey puts his main character through.
Here’s Jack as seen by Shelly O’Kane, daughter of the dead 70s rock ‘n’ roller Maggie O’Kane, whom Jack is researching for a book on dead rock stars called Crash and Burn:
I like your looks. You’re tall, your face isn’t exactly handsome, but it’s better than that. It’s interesting. I like that small sexy scar on your chin. I like the way your lips move when you smile, the expressions in your eyes, as if you feel a lot of things you don’t talk about.
Geoffrey does a nice job describing his characters — just enough to give our own imaginations something to work with, without going overboard on details.
He does a masterful job with personalities too, particularly since many of his characters aren’t who they seem to be at first.
I found Jack particularly fascinating. He’s a desperately lonely man who’s had the hell beat out of him by life and fate, who is trying hard to get back on an even keel despite his own mistakes and some nasty plot complications Geoffrey puts in his way.
Geoffrey does a good job of simultaneously showing Jack’s inner toughness, integrity, vulnerability and occasional lack of judgement.
Plot: During the course of his research into the allegedly suicidal circumstances of a dead a rock star, psychologist Jack Lockwood finds himself the target of murderers and murder investigations. Is it the tragic past reaching out for him again, or is it the uncomfortable questions he’s asking in order to get to the truth of singer Maggie O’Kane’s death — or both? The more important question is “Can Jack survive?” Because, as they might say in the music biz — “the hits just keep on coming.”
Setting: The action of Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide takes place largely in and around London, with trips to Paris and Hamburg. Geoffrey does the same fine job with settings as he does with his characters.
Here, Jack visits Hamburg, which as I’m sure you know, figured prominently in the Beatles’ early history:
We arranged to meet at a café at the Altsterakaden, which turned out to be a waterside mall-type building, which housed clothes stores, cafes and restaurants. It was like a white corridor with elaborate decorated ceilings, and was packed with people walking, or going in and out of the shops opposite the beautiful white colonnaded arches, which were called the Alster Arcades. This busy passageway was on the bank of the Alsterfleet canal, and, from my vantage point at the café table I could see through one of the colonnades and across the canal to the Rathaus, Hamburg’s grand Victorian gothic-style town hall, complete with statues, green roofs and a fine central clock tower whose pinnacle proudly touched the sky.
This attention to real-life locales gives the fiction credibility and authority. Geoffrey’s setting descriptions, whether cold, dark basements where Jack is in danger of meeting his doom, or the affluent neighborhood where friend Ken lives, helps keep readers well-oriented in the story.
What I thought could’ve been done better: There is little to criticize in Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide. The main points — characterization, plot, writing mechanics are all as good or better than most any comparable professionally published thriller.
Even in professionally edited works, though, it’s not uncommon to find one or two typos, and Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide has its few. Thank goodness, too, otherwise I’d come up empty for this section.
Here’s what I’ve got.
Jack’s friend Ken is married to Natalie, who is the widow of Donald. In one sentence, however Natalie is misidentified as “Nicola” — Donald Foster had been Nicola’s first husband, in fact he was the father of Hazel and Anthony, her twins.
Here’s another of a very small set of typos — …an ex girlfriend had once called me handsome, just before she’d taken back the complement on discovering I’d been going out with her friend.
Did you spot the typo? It’s “complement.” Should be “compliment.” Also, “ex girlfriend” should be hyphenated. Am I absolutely scraping the bottom of the barrel in order to find something that I thought could’ve been done better? You bet.
What I thought was good: Other than Nicola/Natalie and complement/compliment — everything. Geoffrey checks off the boxes for great storytelling like a pro.
I’ve already mentioned the good job Geoffrey does with characters and settings. He gets high marks for dialogue, too. Here, a source tells Jack why he decided to share his story:
“You know, Jack, I hadn’t fully decided I was going to talk to you, but I made up my mind to trust you when I saw your face. There’s something sort of trusting and innocent about you isn’t there?”
“I’ve always done my best to be a cynical bastard. Somehow I never got the hang of it.”
Along with characters, imho, suspense drives thrillers. Geoffrey includes plenty. Here, an enemy Jack never even knew he had has got our boy chained on his knees in a cellar with a rising water level meant to drown him:
Melanie’s face hovered above me, gaunt and bony, apparently bloodless in the flickering candlelight. “You’d like me to stay with you now, wouldn’t you? Because nobody wants to die alone, anything’s better than that, even dying in the company of your very worst enemy.”
“I’m sorry. I truly am sorry…”
For a moment she stood there, watching me, and she slowly smiled. “How I’ve longed to hear you say that, Jack. How I’ve longed to hear you say that. Would you like me to let you go?”
“Yes. Please. Let me go.”
“Beg me. Beg me for your life!” Her eyes were alive with excitement.
“I beg you, please please, please let me go.”
I think one of my favorite aspects of the novel is the fact that nearly every character in it is damaged and struggling, even tortured in some way. Some are on their way down, some on their way up, but all are dealing with the various collisions life hands out, some in destructive, even frightening ways.
When we were in the bed she pulled me close. Then, slowly and deliberately, she raked her dagger-sharp nails across my back. I felt an agonising pain as they ripped into the flesh. She kissed me and bit hard into my lip, eyes feral and hungry, alive with a strange light of bestiality. I pulled away, tasting the coppery scent of blood, aware of the the stinging urgent stabbing pains in my back.
“What’s wrong?” Her words were an inebriated slur, her hands once more around my neck, pulling me close. Again, I pulled away.
My mind was beginning to clear, the alcoholic haze less disorienting, and I felt a surge of sheer panic. My lip was throbbing in agony. The blood filling my mouth made me want to gag.
“Sorry Jack,” she said. “I hurt you, didn’t I? But you can hurt me back if you want. Why don’t you do it? Why don’t you hurt me Jack? Have you ever had that kind of fun? I can teach you all about it, I can give you untold secret pleasures. You can hurt me as much as you like.” Her words were drunken, slurred, her hands all over me once more, but I was already pulling away.
Overall: Along with a fascinating glimpse into the music industry of the 1970s, Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide opens a window into a noir-world of damaged people — including the protagonist — and dysfunctional relationships. The writing is top-notch professional.
Geoffrey creates a sympathetic character in Jack Lockwood, then puts him through the wringer, while never moving hope entirely out of reach. And that’s what kept me hooked — the hope that Jack might, just might get the reasonable life he wants.
In fact, Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide, as I finished reading it, reminded me of a song lyric from the era Jack investigates for his book:
You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need.
Good job Geoffrey!
And for a sexy superheroine paranormal sci fi romantic adventure thriller, check out my own novel American Goddesses ~ thanks for visiting Honest Indie!