Sunday, March 29, 2009

Mystery Book Review: Bahama Burnout by Don Bruns

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Bahama Burnout by Don Bruns. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Bahama Burnout by Don Bruns

A Mick Sever Mystery

Oceanview Publishing (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-933515-20-1 (1933515201)
ISBN-13: 978-1-933515-20-5 (9781933515205)
Publication Date: March 2009
List Price: $24.95

Review: Music journalist Mick Sever ("Do you often involve yourself in other people's problems, Mr. Sever?" "Are you kidding? It's what I do for a living.") is on assignment to write an article on the rebirth of a legendary recording studio but finds murder and a Cadillac purportedly owned by Elvis Presley instead in Bahama Burnout, the fifth mystery in this series by Don Bruns.

Sever is in the Bahamas to do a feature on the "new" Highland Studios. The "old" studio, where some of the top names in the business recorded and mixed bestselling records in the past, mysteriously burned down several years ago claiming the life of a still unidentified man, presumably the arsonist. Jonah and Rita Britt, the studio's owners, are trying to stage a comeback and have persuaded the group Johnny Run to record their new album there. But petty acts of vandalism threaten to jinx the already superstitious band. When Johnny Run's manager is found murdered, the most likely suspect is the group's previous manager who is coincidentally on the island, looking to regain his old job. Mick sees a story here, but he knows he doesn't have all the facts. Worse, he doesn't know who he can trust to get them.

Mick Sever takes on a minor role in Bahama Burnout that, somewhat unexpectedly, works to the book's advantage. He's more of an observer than a player, though he does get roughed up at one point (Hey Mick, what happened to you? To your face? Sever told him the other guy looked worse.) Set on Paradise Island in the Bahamas, the location adds a tropical flair to the story though for the most part it is background color rather than an integral element of the plot. Many of the characters are in a constant semi-lucid state of mind, either from alcohol or weed (which seems surprisingly abundant) or a combination thereof. This tends to act as a metaphor for the reader as to what is happening on the island: are events being seen as they should; are the right connections being made. And the old rusted-out Cadillac provides a focal point about which everything revolves.

Bahama Burnout ends rather abruptly with much of the story unresolved, what happens next left for the reader to imagine and piece together. But instead of being unsatisfactory, this too works in the book's favor; not every story has a clean ending and this one certainly doesn't. Though Bahama Burnout is a rather difficult mystery to categorize, with its atmospheric setting and colorful characters it is probably the author's best to date.

Special thanks to Maryglenn McCombs Book Publicity for providing a copy of Bahama Burnout for this review.

Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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Synopsis (from the publisher): For rock and roll writer Mick Sever, another story, another deadly island paradise is all in a day's work. This time, Mick heads to Nassau, Bahamas, home of the legendary Highland Studio. Known for pumping out hits that burn up the charts, Highland is where the magic happens-or rather, where the magic happened until a devastating fire destroyed the entire studio. No one knows how the fire started, who started it-or whose body was found among the charred ruins.

Sent to get the inside story on the opening of the new Highland Studio, Mick finds this is hardly the Phoenix-rising-out-of-the-ashes story he expected. Some say the studio's haunted, some say it's cursed, but one thing is for sure: someone-or something-wants to stop the music. A smashed guitar and erased tracks send a subtle warning, but murder? That's an entirely different tune. If Mick doesn't act fast, Highland Studio, along with everything and everyone in its path, could go up in smoke. It's not always better to burn out than to fade away.

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