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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A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...


Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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