A disgraced journalist and a young violinist seek a charismatic rock star in parallel quests.
Jack Parlabane’s two-decade career as an investigative reporter, first in his native Scotland and then on the international scene, has always relied on a certain improvisational approach to obtaining information. But when he went too far, he lost everything, even though he stuck to his principles and didn’t name his source. Now he’s washed up, divorced, childless, lonely, and wary of an offer from Mairi Lafferty, the younger sister of one of his best friends. She’s on the rise as the manager of the rock band Savage Earth Heart, whose leader, Heike Gunn, has gone missing. Monica Halcrow also learns the art of improvisation when she joins Heike’s band as the fiddle player and starts to break free of her classical training. She becomes preoccupied with understanding the manipulative, controlling Heike, who, like her, grew up on a remote island off the Scottish coast. On the band’s European tour, Monica ventures even further into new territory and comes to suspect, as Parlabane does in following the band’s trail, that what seems like a simple merchandising ploy is actually a front for something more sinister. When Parlabane can no longer avoid the possibility that Heike may have been killed for information she shouldn’t have had, he also confronts uncomfortable truths about his own life. But a subtle twist in Monica’s account of the band’s tour leads Parlabane to a shocking discovery and a slender hope.
A complex back story and some awkward attempts to convey the magic of the lost singer’s music make for a slow start. But Brookmyre (Bred in the Bone, 2104, etc.) builds momentum and combines the two distinct narrative voices in a clever duet.