Thin Edges—a California rock group of the early ’70s who have been divided for more than a decade—has an opportunity to re-enter the spotlight and relive their rockand-roll glory days, but that hope is threatened when their guitarist, Blue Crosby, turns up dead, and Cal Lambert, their lead singer, is the prime suspect.
An offer by a movie producer to use the band’s music—written largely by Cal—would bring royalties, renewed interest in their early records, and the possibility of a group revival. However, Crosby, clinging to old grudges, had schemed to upend the windfall for Lambert and the other band members.
Now, almost broke and near arrest as the key suspect, Lambert seeks the help of his estranged son to clear his name and protect the producer’s offer. The investigation by Cal’s son and an assigned police detective uncovers the bad blood between Lambert and Crosby, the rampant drug use and hedonist lifestyle of Laurel Canyon, a suburb of L.A., and the jealousies, rivalries and egos that led to the band’s breakup and fade from fame. Only by going back to the group’s halcyon days in Southern California and sorting through the origins of the animosity can they find the clues that will help them discover who murdered Blue Crosby.
In Death of a Guitarist, author, James P. Hanley, has set himself the ambitious task of bringing to life the rock-and-roll music scene of the 1970s in California through the murder of one of its prominent musicians ten years later. And he mostly succeeds in evoking the era with its raucous music and flamboyant lifestyles, often involving heavy drinking, drug use, and womanizing. As someone who grew up in the Los Angeles area at that time, I was somewhat aware of what was going on, but didn’t know the role that Laurel Canyon played as a mecca for rock musicians, and found other details in the novel fascinating. The story begins in the 1980’s with the discovery of the body of Blue Crosby, the guitarist of the now defunct band, Thin Edges. As the prime suspect, Cal Lambert, the lead singer, enlists the help of his lawyer son, from whom he’s estranged, in an effort to clear his name, and cash in on a possible movie deal that could be quite lucrative, and also might lead to the band’s revival. Cal, however, is not the only suspect. Also falling under suspicion are the two other members of Thin Edges, the drummer and the other guitarist, and two of Blue’s many girlfriends, one longtime, and the other more recent. Tension builds as the investigation proceeds and old rivalries among the band members are revived, and Cal struggles to gain the trust of his estranged son, who, in turn, has his own difficulties with his estranged wife after he asks for her help in solving the case. This is a story with a large cast of characters that spans two decades and segues back and forth between them. It’s also told from multiple points of view, which adds another layer of complexity to the novel, and serves to build suspense. Just when you think you’ve figured out who the killer is, Hanley deftly shifts the focus from that character to someone else, until almost the very end, when the true murderer is revealed. All in all, Death of a Guitarist is a book that will appeal to readers who enjoy social history in the form of a murder mystery with well-developed characters, interesting settings, and plenty of tension and suspense.
Full of twists and turns; impossible to put down. Best to start this book when you have plenty of time to read it without interruptions.
If you enjoy murder mysteries, you will be entertained with Death of a Guitarist. Lots of interesting characters that made this book a fun read.
My husband and I both thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was a great mix of music and murder. The characters were very interesting.