Book Review of “Graceland” by Deborah Grabien
I love Deborah Grabien’s JP Kinkaid Chronicles series, published by Plus One Books. So far, six books have been published in the series. The latest one, Uncle John’s Band, came out this month. This is my review of Graceland, the fourth book in the series and the first one I read. I went back and read the earlier books, then Book of Days, which came out last September. I want to hang out with these characters! Thank you, Deborah, for giving me some cool new friends.
I don’t like mysteries. But I do like rock and roll. The only way an author could ever get me to read a mystery would be to give it a rock and roll backdrop. San Francisco author Deborah Grabien does just that in her JP Kinkaid Chronicles. I happened upon Graceland, the fourth book in the series, one day at my local library. The cover photo of an empty stage with a Gibson electric guitar in a stand in one corner intrigued me. Once I read writer/musician Grabien’s bio, I knew I would be checking out this book.
Grabien’s protagonist, renowned British guitarist and San Francisco resident JP Kinkaid, is immensely likeable from the first page. Kinkaid, like Grabien, has multiple sclerosis, which plays a prominent role in the character’s daily life and his interaction with people, most notably his wife Bree. The story resolves around the induction of guitarist Farris “Bulldog” Moody, one of Kinkaid’s Mississippi Delta heroes, into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. When Ches Kobel, a writer who spent time with legendary blues sideman, is found dead of a heart attack in front of the Hall of Fame building in Cleveland, Kinkaid suspects foul play. Throughout the book, Grabien immerses her readers in the world of seasoned musicians. And she inundates us with what it is like for a guitarist to travel through that world while dealing with a debilitating illness. Grabien spends a lot of time developing the relationship between Kinkaid and his wife. From their unspoken communication cues to their sex life, she provides a fine portrait of a complicated, but loving relationship. I have not read the earlier books in the series, but it feel like this development has been a progression from one book to the next. It is a lot different from the stereotyped portrayal of the personal life of a rock star.
Halfway through the book, I figured out the identity of the murderer, but I enjoyed the story nonetheless. But the story left me with several questions. Is a biological lineage really more important than a perceived heritage? And does it matter, as long as you believe? I plan to pick up the three previous books to learn more about the world of JP Kinkaid and his bandmates. According to the list at the front of the book, Grabien plans five more books in the series. I’m looking forward to reading every one. But just don’t call them mysteries, okay?