Sunday, October 05, 2008

Life Without Music

Life Without Music
by Jeanette Clinkunbroomer

(CreateSpace / 1-438-20699-2 / 978-1-438-20699-8 / May 2008 / 314 pages / $15.00)

Reviewed by Celia Hayes for PODBRAM

The title is a quote from Nietzsche, to the effect that life without it is flat, stale, hardly worth living. Life without music is a life without joy, interest— or love; which is actually the life Chicago P.I. Marti McClellan has. She is in her late thirties, a former cop and divorcee, still a little bitter about her self-centered ex-husband— an embryo lawyer by day and an aspiring musician by night— and somewhat haunted by the some of the cases that she worked as a police officer. These days, she lives with her eccentric ex-hippie mother, Alice, and does background investigations, checking up on the welfare of children in disputed custody cases. She works for lawyers; nothing liable to be violent, heartbreaking and life-shattering. She’s had enough of that kind of scene… but what she gets when one of her lawyer clients asks for her discreet help for one of his clients turns out to be exactly that.

The client is one Johnny Magick; semi-retired rock legend, Hall-of-Famer, ex-addict to all sorts of substances. He has two ex-wives and a dissolute former life, well documented in the tabloids, but a lot of gold records on his wall. He also is still handsome, charismatic, and hoping to redeem his failures with his two daughters: the troubled junkie problem child and the sweet sheltered college student whom he never knew about until she appeared on his doorstep. He and Marti hit it off, two damaged people whose attraction to each other gradually overcomes a certain degree of wariness.

Life Without Music is an interesting and readable combination of a PI procedural and the tentative romance blossoming between two unlikely people– and in the case of Marti, initially rather unwilling to repeat the disastrous experience of romancing a musician. But she is drawn in by Johnny’s charm, and a growing realization that he needs her, and that he genuinely cares for his daughters, and wants to redeem himself in their eyes.

In some ways, the romance seems a little pat, with all the secondary characters (save for one) encouraging of and approving of Johnny and Marti as a pair. The narrative voice sometimes seems a little flat— a decided contract to the dialogue, which is snappy and informative. During the duller stretches, when Marti is going about her usual investigative and personal routine, the story is slowed down with way too much excruciating and ultimately pointless detail. Of course, the relevant clues need to be strewn around, in plain sight but with sufficient ‘clutter’ to disguise them, but it also slows down the story. The final twist is very will hidden, but I wish that the eventual villain had been a bit more of a presence, instead of always seeming to be a half-seen cardboard shadow. The final denouement between Marti and the presence stalking her all through the book might have had a little more impact. Still and all, a worthwhile read, especially for fans of V.I. Warshawsky and Kinsey Milhone.

See Also: Celia's BNN Review

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