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Hard Rock by Dan Ames
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Hard Rock is the sequel to the opening John Rockne investigation, Dead Wood, and it picks up almost immediately where the first book left off. John Rockne made a major mistake when he was a police officer and a young man was murdered as a result. Now he has a chance to bring the killer to justice – and untangle the mystery which motivated that and other crimes.

What follows is a clear-cut contemporary American gumshoe investigation. The narrative is enlivened by his relationship with the local sheriff, a feisty, forthright woman who just happens to be his sister. Rockne also comes with the traditional PI’s cast of supporting characters including a useful source of local info in the shape of a journalist who has to be bribed with ever-more outlandish culinary indulgences.

The star of the show is, however, the villain. The scenes involving this nameless contract killer lift the whole narrative out of the ordinary. He’s pitiless and proficient yet pleasingly quirky – inspired by Keith Richards’ guitar playing. His appearances are enhanced by drily witty deadpan dialogue and the character’s ruthless nature: he’s not beyond killing even his own customers. While Rockne bumbles around and falls foul of small town politics (and his own ex-wife), the assassin kinda steals the show.

This book is billed as ‘noir’ and ‘hard boiled’ but it’s a long way from the downbeat grit, stylised writing and snappy dialogue of these genres. Nor is it shocking, explicit or graphically violent. The narrative clips along, but I wasn’t particularly wowed by the protagonist. The plot held together and the resolution was neatly delivered, but I’m not too tempted to pick up the next in the series straight away.

The Rockne series would probably be appreciated by readers of Sue Grafton’s ‘alphabet’ books featuring Kinsey Millhone – they share a similar vibe.
7/10

There's a more detailed review of this book over at
https://murdermayhemandmore.wordpress.com/2016/06/14/hard-rock-a-stolen-show/ ( )
  RowenaHoseason | Jun 22, 2016 |
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