Of course Alex Bernier doesn’t want to cover upstate New York’s Melting Rock Music Festival, but her editor at the Gabriel Monitor assigns her to it, and she’s soon surrounded by cacophonic songmeisters, paying steak-sized bucks for a hot dog, sleeping in a tent, and interviewing a passel of genially stoned teenagers who’ve been coming to the four-day event every year since it began. Then Shaun Kirtz, one of the kids, dies, and so do Billy Halpern and Tom Giamotti. Naturally, their gal pals, not to mention the Festival organizers, are distraught. Must the event be cancelled just because a few unfortunate boys ingested some man-eating LSD? The only person at Melting Rock who’s happy now is Alex, who sniffs a crime more to her liking: a possible multiple homicide. Did the guys uncover some Festival finance finagling that accounted for refurbishing a certain B&B? Are the festival site and their deaths tied into the controversial Deep Lake Cooling Project? Before Alex and her reporter chums at the Monitor and her cop boyfriend, Brian Cody, can figure things out, there’ll be more work for the stretcher-bearers, and what’s bandied about as groovy Festival free love will turn out to be rape, leading to yet another tragic death and a gruesome suicide before Alex’s horrified eyes.
Saulnier captures the filth, the crowds, the drug haze, the goofiness, and the rapture of a mini-Woodstock/Monterrey. Now if only headstrong Alex (Bad Seed, 2002, etc.) didn’t tiresomely insist on ignoring Cody’s good advice in favor of newsroom banter.