Tommy's Song

In Mears’ retro thriller set in the late 1960s, a man searches for his friend’s killer with only the lyrics to his final song as clues.
Jack Penn returns from two tours in Vietnam to find that his best friend and former bandmate, Tommy, has fallen from a window to his death. Jack refuses to believe that Tommy would kill himself, especially as his band, Currant, was poised for success. He takes Tommy’s cryptic lyrics (“An’ now the man, the man be after me / Seekin’ to shut my story down”) as an indication that someone may have been after him, and that his fall might actually have been a murder. Joined by his former girlfriend, Pam, and aspiring reporter Ben, Jack traces each lyrical reference in the hope of finding who’s responsible. The search takes them from the Mississippi Delta to San Francisco and encompasses many major figures and events of the late-’60s counterculture. Jack and Pam confront Tommy’s former bandmates at Woodstock and Altamont, get clues from author Hunter S. Thompson and rocker Lou Reed, and even manage to catch the moon landing live on TV. As they follow each lead, they’re drawn deeper into not only the music world, but also the criminal underworld, as they run afoul of mobsters and drug distributors. Although any of these elements may threaten readers’ suspension of disbelief, they’ll just as likely please those interested in rock ’n’ roll culture or the late ’60s in general. Mears is careful not to idealize the era, however. Jack, for example, is a man equally disillusioned by both the music world and his experience in Vietnam, and his cynical disposition and single-minded purpose drive the plot. That isn’t to say that Mears doesn’t indulge in some nostalgia; the story is rife with cultural references, but they don’t define the story and merely provide a backdrop for the action. That action drags in its final quarter, and the plot sometimes strains to encompass such a broad range of people and places. But in the end, Mears makes the story about Jack, whose hair-trigger temper and haunting memories make him an intriguing protagonist and keep the story moving.
A fun, light trip into the dark side of the ’60s.

Pub Date: June 5, 2014

ISBN: 978-1499399608

Page Count: 332

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2014

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Joe’s fifth case is his best balanced, most deeply felt and most mystifying to date: an absolute must.


Crime-fighting Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett outdoes himself during a temporary transfer from sleepy Saddlestring to fashionable Jackson Hole.

Will Jensen, the Jackson game warden, was a great guy and a model warden, but once his wife left him six months ago, he spiraled into madness and suicide, and now Joe’s been called to replace him. The transition is anything but smooth. There’s no question of Joe’s family coming with him, so he’s reduced to hoping he can get a signal for the cell-phone calls he squeezes into his busy schedule. En route to his new posting, Joe has to pursue a marauding grizzly. He arrives to meet a formidable series of challenges. Cantankerous outfitter Smoke Van Horn wants to go on attracting elk with illegal salt licks without the new warden’s interference. Animal Liberation Network activist Pi Stevenson wants him to publicize her cause and adopt a vegan diet. Developer Don Ennis wants to open a housing development for millionaires who like their meat free of additives. Ennis’s trophy wife Stella simply wants Joe—and he wants her back. As he wrestles with these demands, and with a supervisor riled over Joe’s track record of destroying government property in pursuit of bad guys (Trophy Hunt, 2004, etc.), Joe slowly becomes convinced that Will did not kill himself.

Joe’s fifth case is his best balanced, most deeply felt and most mystifying to date: an absolute must.

Pub Date: May 5, 2005

ISBN: 0-399-15291-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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