by R.B. Russell
Review by Mario Guslandi
PS Publishing Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781786361905
Date: 01 September 2017 List Price $29.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
A skillful British publisher, brilliant writer, and artist, R.B. Russell is the author of several short story collections and novellas and now presents us with his first novel, a peculiar mystery set in the Sheffield area in the late '80s.
The main character is Lawrence Moore, a young man working in a record shop who has written the lyrics of a number of songs which had become the backbone of the new concept album from a once-famous pop star, Richie Young. Moore's lyrics had been inspired by a number of dark events which had taken place years before involving his old school: the unexplained disappearance (possibly the murder) of his former girlfriend, the tragic death of another schoolmate, and the puzzling suicide of a teacher. Whether these events are linked is anybody's guess, but the release of the album triggers angry reactions among the relatives of the people involved and merciless coverage by the press, artfully elicited by Young himself, seeking publicity for his new record.
The sad truth about what happened will be finally disclosed in all its terrible aspects, leaving the reader aghast and unsettled.
The novel is not simply a mystery, but actually a multi-layered work. On one hand, it's also an insightful portrait of the musical world of British pop of that time, when rock bands were very popular and many young people were apparently satisfied to spend most of their time just listening to records and live performances of their musical idols. On the other hand, the novel provides a crude depiction of the tabloids tremendous influence on people's opinions, and of the callousness and dishonesty of a certain type of journalism in distorting the truth in order to sell more copies of their newspapers.
On top of this, Russell's elegant but effective prose (a constant feature of this author) leads the reader with ease through the many twists of the plot making the novel an engrossing and quite enjoyable reading experience.